I love a movie that makes me smile. No matter how good or bad the rest of the film, if it elicits an organic smile (or any other automatic emotion) from me, it has done a good portion of its job as an artistic provocation. Angelfish, Peter Lee’s earnest drama about seeking out one’s path in a booby-trapped world, made me smile.
Brendan (Jimi Stanton – looking much like a younger Jim Caviezel, but with infinitely more charisma) and Eva (Destiny Nicole Frasqueri) come from two different worlds. He has grown up poor with a grossly immature mother and troubled brother in the mostly white Knightsbridge area of The Bronx. She, while not exactly rich, hails from the largely Puerto Rican Bronx enclave of Marble Hill, surrounded by a loving family consisting of her immigrant mother, aunt, uncle, and assorted cousins. Brendan works at a local market as the deli man (which is the only source of income for his fractured family); she is on her way to community college in the fall to study accounting, albeit begrudgingly.
“…the way Brendan handles himself in this interaction that more or less defines his character as an honest man…”
Their lives intersect when Eva shows up at Brendan’s deli counter. He chivalrously rescues her from a catcalling customer, yet is, himself, immediately taken by her. Later on at the movies, Brendan strikes up a conversation with Eva and asks her out: romance blooms. The budding relationship between Brendan and Eva is where Angelfish truly shines. It’s heartwarming to watch as Brendan, who had zero parental guidance in his life, let alone any instruction on being a stand-up man in society, muster up all of his confidence to ask out a girl he likes. We see him suddenly stand up straight, shoulders back, chest out. There is something so innocent and ingenious about the way Brendan handles himself in this interaction that more or less defines his character as an honest man doing his best under difficult circumstances.