|Sundance London Review: Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Saturday, 27 April 2013 09:46|
Director: Francesca Gregorini
What is the truth about fishes? Do they have legs? Are they dogs in disguise? If you’re hoping to find out from Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes, best forget the title. Because while the name implies some aquatic intrigue, Francesca Gregorini’s is too concerned staring into its own murky depths to provide any satisfying answers.
Emmanuel (Scodelario) is about to turn 18. A sullen teen, she blames herself for her mum’s death during childbirth and doesn’t get on with dad’s (an understated Alfred Molina) new girlfriend. But then Linda (Biel) moves in across the road – a woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Emmanuel’s mother.
It’s only a matter of days until Emmanuel’s over there, offering to babysit for Linda – only to discover something very… odd. And it’s not just that the baby has a terrifying face, seemingly fixed in the same freaky position for the entire runtime.
Gregorini’s script paddles through a sea of loss, grief and freaky-faced babies with some interesting ideas, but never really reaches the other side. The performances help to keep it afloat; after impressing so much in Wuthering Heights, the blue-eyed Kaya Scodelario is fantastic as the unhinged lead, Biel keeps an impressively straight face throughout, and Hunky Dory’s wonderful Aneurin Barnard does a good job of standing by and looking confused by their bizarre relationship.
But the audience is liable to do the same as the second half arrives, a climax that defies logic and leaves you wondering why none of the characters did anything sooner. It’s well shot by Gregorini, who makes Biel’s old building sing with character – and the odd flash of CGI water is integrated well to instill a surreal atmosphere – but when an ending doesn’t quite satisfy and the characters don’t make sense, it’s hard to remain engaged. A little less time worrying about fishes and some more time on solid ground might have gone a long way. As it is, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes is a bizarre, intriguing premise that sadly ends up down the toilet bowl.
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