Little Fish boasts one of the strongest casts we’ve seen in an Australian film in recent years, though the film falls well short of the masterpiece it should have been.
This is Rowan Woods’ first feature since 1998’s The Boys, and the creeping menace that’s so brilliantly apparent in the climactic scene of Little Fish is highly reminiscent of that chilling drama. This is the darker side of suburbia, where the crooks are your next-door neighbours or even live with you and share the same surname. Tracy (Cate Blanchett – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) wants nothing more than to be free of the past and to take those uncertain steps into the straight and narrow future, but she is surrounded by criminals, both honest and dishonest. Her performance here is typically brilliant, although it seems that sometimes the filmmakers got a little sidetracked by her beauty, as we see her walk in slow motion through crowds many, many times.
Blanchett is surrounded by an extraordinarily talented cast. Hugo Weaving (The Old Man Who Read Love Stories) again proves he is master of disguise – barely recognisable as the man who played Agent Smith in The Matrix movies. Noni Hazelhurst (Candy), more readily recognised in Australia from her TV presenting work than her acting resume (which to be fair is respectably long), skilfully provokes both laughs and pity as Tracy’s world-weary mother. Martin Henderson (Bride & Prejudice) is a fantastically mismatched sibling for Tracy, Lisa McCune (‘The Potato Factory’ mini-series) truly shines in a regrettably small role, and Sam Neill (Wimbledon) is perfect as the intimidating underworld boss. The presence of such an incredible cast unfortunately served to highlight my overall disappointment in the feature generally. The relationship between Jonny (Dustin Nguyen) and Tracy had potential but never really sizzled in the way I felt it should.
Overall Little Fish was too long, and while events slid inexorably to a very powerful climax, the conclusion was inadequate, inappropriate and bordering on sentimental mush. Danny Ruhlmann’s cinematography is stunning, but again this only highlighted for me the sloppiness of the narrative. That such a simple plot and minimal character arcs remain solid viewing is a credit to the cast and the filmmakers who were all there apparently to make a brilliant film that was seemingly never apparent in the script.Rating: