"Australian film-making is finally growing up (again)"
Best Australian film since Lantana? Perhaps. Intelligent, mature and a lot more worthy than most Australian fare? Absolute-a-frigging definately!Little Fish throws a lot at you in its first 20 minutes or so. So much in fact it can be a bit overwhelming and certainly worthy of a second viewing.
In the time it takes for the first act to finish, we have been introduced to a family torn apart by drugs, personal tragedies, shattered dreams and the unique pain that can only be experienced by a group of people holding each other together by a bond of blood and love.
The character at the core of all these dispirate emotions is Tracy (Cate Blanchett), a woman trying to make some forward progress in a world that seems intent on holding her back. She can't get the finance to buy the video store she has worked at for four years, and is teetering on the edge of the abyss as her whole world closes in around her.
Tracy is a caring woman at heart, and she lovingly tends to the welfare of her mother's former boyfriend, Lionel (Hugo Weaving), a former AFL player who is now a hopeless heroin addict.
An old flame comes back into her life in the form of Jonny (Dustin Nguyen - yes, the same Dustin Nguyen from 21 Jump Street no less). He wants to take up where they left off four years before, but the pain of the car accident that made her brother an amputee still lingers painfully - Jonny was driving the car. Jonny was always a bit of a shady character, and his return as a supposedly professional, suit wearing man masks his true intent - to take up where he left off in the drug trade.
This is only a sample of the often depressing and bleak characters we share some time with in Little Fish. Those looking for a happy ending or a heart-warming tale will come away disappointed after seeing this film.
The performances overall are reasonably solid, with the standouts being Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving. The time they share on screen (which for the most part is all staged within his dilapidated unit) are heartfelt and moving. You genuinely feel the pain that Hugo's character is feeling - a man who wants to kick the drug but is let down by his lack of resolve and willpower.
The main performers are also supported by a stellar support cast, most notably Noni Hazlehurst as the mother and Sam Neill playing a retiring "drug lord". Dustin Nguyen as the love interest fails to convince though and is probably one of the weaker links in this otherwise solid family drama.It's a slow paced film but one that builds to a quite satisfying climax. You are never really sure where the story will take you, and that positively adds to its overall effect.