Little Fish is an Australian movie about a woman (Cate Blanchett) dealing with drug issues. Much of the worst occurred several years prior to what we see in the movie–she nearly died of an overdose, and her brother was crippled in a car accident with her drunk or high boyfriend driving–so this is more about the aftermath of her drug involvement.
She’s clean (for now), but many of her friends and family are still into drugs, or could fall back into it at any time, which puts her in tricky situations as far as how and how much to remain a part of their lives.
Her single mother (Noni Hazlehurst) is strong and supportive, but can be harsh and resentful about the way her children have damaged their lives with drugs, and the way others have facilitated their doing so.
Blanchett gets involved in a scheme with her ex-boyfriend (Dustin Nguyen) to obtain enough money from a drug deal to buy a business and get out of the life entirely. (The old “just one last big score and I’m done” angle.)
In general, this is a movie of people somewhat willing to love, somewhat willing to accept love, somewhat willing to reach out for help, somewhat willing to forgive, somewhat willing to overcome their own guilt, etc., but never really enough to be happy, to make healthy connections, to heal. There’s always enough self-doubt, enough distrust, enough uncertainty about rebuilding burned bridges to keep the movie from having any truly uplifting, unambiguously happy, positive moments.
Indeed, there’s an overall pessimistic feel to the movie, even if not to the extreme of “These people are messed up and always will be, and there’s no hope for them.” But clearly they will struggle to overcome the damage of their past and present involvement in this drug subculture, and even if they emerge from it able to rebuild a decent life (as Blanchett has taken steps toward doing for several years), they will not do so unscathed.
Which is real, and is psychologically interesting and important. But also depressing. And for me the depressing–to some extent boring–element seems to have affected my experience of the film more than the elements that I admire.
The film is slow-paced and sluggish in style, with the sullen low key music playing under most scenes fitting perfectly the mood of the film. It’s a little dense and confusing in places.
Of course movies can be downers in ways that are emotionally powerful and thought-provoking, and I’m sure that’s how some viewers will experience this one, but I had trouble staying interested and following this film. The basic premise and the realism are promising, but ultimately the execution is too oppressive for this Little Fish to hook me.