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SFF’13 Movie Review: “Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes”

January 17, 2013

emanuelSo, Sundance starts today, and I’m here covering opening weekend of the festival, not mention doing my volunteer work, but expect some cool little things on my blog in regards to the festival.

That being said, lets start with the first movie I had the opportunity to see, thanks to a special Sundance volunteer screening, “Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes”. In recent memory, mental health disorders have become topical choices in the media of film (ie. “Silver Linings Playbook), however “Emanuel…” takes a personal and in-depth approach in it’s storytelling and character arc.

Emanuel (Kaya Scodelario), a sarcastic but sensitive 17-year-old, lives with her father (Alfred Molina) and stepmother (Frances O’Conner). Her 18th birthday is approaching fast, a day she has never cared for since her mother died giving birth to her. When the mysterious new next door neighbor Linda (Jessica Biel), a young and ‘hip’ mother, moves in next door, Emmanuel is tranced by Linda’s striking resemblance to her late mother, Emanuel begins to babysit for Linda’s newborn daughter. As Emanuel and Linda spend more time together, they develop a bond that becomes deeply entwined in a surprising secret Linda harbors. Leading down a path that could bring Emmanuel down a treacherous road of dark delusions.

Without giving away the surprise, I will say the twist that’s revealed in the second act catches a lot of the audience members by surprise. The majority of the audience was quite taken back and didn’t know how to react. At the start of it all, the movie takes advantage at some right moments of dark humor that is impossible NOT to laugh at, and I believe that’s something it shares in common with “Silver Linings Playbook”, it makes real-life problems somewhat humors, perhaps to give us a better understanding and connection with the core characters.

The films greatest strength comes from it’s lead actress, Kaya Scoldeario, she brings such gravitas to a complicated teenage character. She’s sharply witty when she needs to be, and finds the right balance of a sorrow and fearful presence to her role. Many of the actors in this film are good at what they do, I especially loved Frances O’Conner’s character as Emanuel’s step-mom, a role I can foresee a Best Supporting Actress nomination in the future. Jessica Biel, who never really impresses me (acting wise), does give a performance that’s different than anything she’s ever done before, does she fully grasp the realities of her character, yes/no. For me personally, it was hard to tell at times, but it wasn’t by any means a bomb, she does good work here, but I could’ve seen another actress in this role do it better, but that’s one mans opinion, the real shining star goes to Kaya.

If the film has any sort of issues, I think it’s the underdeveloped romance between Kaya and Claude (Aneurin Barnard), a boy Emanuel has secret rendezvous with on the train. There relationship does start out strong, not to mention different in a cinematic refreshing sort of way, but by the time we make our way towards the end of Act 2, it takes a very traditional route where the romance ends suddenly, and then moments later all’s forgiven and forgotten, I wish it just wasn’t so easy in that way.

Writer/director Francesca Gregornini, does craft a poignant story here, about women and their traumatic issues they can suffer through, yet sometimes they can find ways to come together and cope as one. There’s a bit of spirituality healing at play and it all comes together about the truth of fishes…

GRADE: B+

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