Hey Jude, this is a real threatening case of Forget Me Nots.
Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy marries girl. And boy and girl forget each other. Let’s hope the last part doesn’t happen. The reason I’ve added that last part is because “Little Fish” depicts an Alzheimers pandemic known as Neuroinflammatory Affliction or NIA for short, which destroys people’s memories, just like the real-life disease. This was made before the COVID-19 outbreak, and I’m told that it was supposed to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, but ironically the event got canceled because of that.
In a recent trend of virus movies (minus the zombies), last summer, I’ve enjoyed both “She Dies Tomorrow,” which spread the fears of people dying, and “Spontaneous,” which explosively had teens exploding, and I’ve panned “Songbird,” which lamely treated COVID-19 like a love story. Now, we have “Little Fish,” directed by Chad Hartigan and based on Aja Gabel’s short story, is an emotional and riveting Indie that scares us with the fear of memory loss. I, myself, worry about that sometimes, but I still can’t imagine the pain these characters are going through.
The story is set in Seattle. Jack O’Connell is the boy-a band photographer and former drug addict named Jude-and Olivia Cooke is the girl named Emma-an English vet-both of whom marry in the year 2021, just as the virus starts spreading. The first person they knew who caught it is their musician friend Ben (Raul Castillo), who begins to forget both his music and wife Samantha (Soko). Emma signs Jude up for the NIA trials, given the symptoms he has, and knows her mother back in England is starting to succumb to the disease. She’a afraid of mentally losing them both.
And when a new cure receives some “overwhelmingly positive” results, the government shuts off new applicants from it, and things go crazy. People are throwing themselves off ferries, banging on hospital doors, and Ben holds a knife against his one true love, all because of NIA. So, Jude and Emma both must struggle to fight this disease.
“Little Fish” is neither a horror film nor a mass market thriller. It’s released by IFC Films, and yet, it still keeps you at the edge of your seat with how the characters deal with this particular turmoil. The performances from Cooke, O’Connell, Castillo, and Soko are all excellent, as they each express their fears of the disease and love for each other. There are some lagging moments, but we still acknowledge the realities and prioritizing about the most important facts to remember.
I know the world will win the fight against COVID-19, especially since people are getting vaccinated, but why have I’ve been seeing these pandemic flicks (ixnay on “Songbird”)-either inspired by the outbreak or threatened by the outbreak? Because these movies are about characters affected by the different diseases, and the performances who bring them to life. They also provide the genuine fears and sympathies of catching them. Kudos to both Hartigan and Gabel for taking Alzheimers to new heights.
Wear a mask and see this at your local artisan theater or be the smart one and watch it on your computer or TV. It’s up to you. Whatever makes you comfortable.
In Select Theaters and On Demand