Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes (USA 2013) 96min
Dir. Francesca Gregorini |Starring Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Biel, Alfred Molina
Once in a while, a film comes along that hits just the right note and resonates completely with its audience. The direction, the narrative, casting, location, set-design, photography…everything fits just right. That happened for me with Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes.
Having not seen writer/director Francesca Gregorini’s first feature, Tanner Hall, I am unable to draw any comparison with Gregorini’s previous work. However, if Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes is anything to go by, then the cinematic future looks very bright indeed and we should all hope that funding for the director’s next feature becomes available very soon.
Originally written for Rooney Mara (who starred in the aforementioned Tanner Hall), the film sadly took 3 years to acquire sufficient funding and by that time Mara was considered too old for the title role of Emanuel. Gregorini has taken just the right risk in casting Kaya Scodelario, who, despite being largely unknown outside of the UK, will be familiar to those of you who are regular viewers of C4’s teen drama Skins. Scodelario is mesmerising as Emanuel, an intelligent but fragile teenager who lives with her father and new step-mother. Emanuel’s own mother died during childbirth and her absence has left the young woman with a sense of longing to belong to a mother-daughter relationship that she feels has eluded her, even with the arrival of step-mother Janice. So, when young single mother Linda (Jessica Biel), moves in next door, Emanuel quickly volunteers to babysit for her and is drawn into a world just as fragile as her own, a world that is not all that it seems. Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes tenderly explores the nature of relationships formed with those around us and the relationships that we choose to reject, despite the compassion of their offering.
This film of course will not be for everyone; nothing blows up and there are no gratuitous sex scenes. But this film does contain dark humour, outstanding performances and a lack of fear in showing the fragility of human relationships and in its portrayal of those in society who are considered against the norm, as not dangerous or wrong. Though this is an extremely feminine film, don’t let that put you off, it is a film that is endearing, beautifully made and full of surprises that will keep you guessing until the very end.