NEW TO HULU! Not that I want to throw any conspiracies out there, but how does a film about a pandemic that was made before this pandemic get everything so right? The movie in question is Chad Hartigan’s Little Fish, and it stars Olivia Cooke and Jack O’Connell.
Its pandemic is nothing like ours. The fake virus is called Neuroinflammatory Affliction (NIA), and once inflicted, the host suffers permanent memory loss. The loss happens either at once or over a gradual period of time. Cooke plays Emma, who has just seen her best friend and mother succumb to NIA. Now, her husband, Jude (O’Connell), is starting to show symptoms. Not wanting to lose yet another person to the affliction, she enters him into the first clinical trial to find a cure.
If I’m frank with you, the themes of memories, the effects of Alzheimer’s, and a rapidly spreading virus raging across the world overshadow the heart of the story. The narrative focuses on the romance between Jude and Emma and how the two struggle to maintain their love as Jude’s memory of Emma fades. The couple desperately holds on to physical symbols of their love, which involves a, you guessed it, little fish. These moments are not only powerful, emotional, and touching, but I was left still thinking about them days later.
“…once inflicted, the host suffers permanent memory loss.”
Unfortunately for the filmmakers, Little Fish began post-production just as the current pandemic began, and the parallels are undeniable, though it does give the movie an especially resonant intensity. In one instance, there’s panic in the street as hundreds attempt to enter the study for the vaccine. Soon a video is leaked on the internet describing in detail how the vaccine is administered. It’s not a pleasant procedure, and soon people are hospitalized for botched treatments. Even in this fictional world, the cure is politicized.
So let me tell you why this film is great. We can make all the connections we want with the COVID pandemic, but Little Fish is a masterpiece of storytelling. Emma’s story is a slow burn, and each slow-burn revelation comes at the right time in terms of her arc and maintains the perfect flow and energy. While a depressing tale, I was engaged from start to finish.
Though the overarching plotline of the movie feels like an M. Night Shyamalan story of old, the love between Emma and Jude makes us root for them to succeed. Olivia Cooke is simply fantastic in a role that feels deceptively simple. Without saying too much, the film’s got a tremendous button as an ending as well.
Little Fish is one of those hidden gems. A great movie no one is seeing. Look, I’m a critic, and my opinion is my opinion, but go out and see this as soon as possible. If you’re an Olivia Cooke fan, you need to see this. You’ll be talking about it with friends for a while, as it touches upon so many relevant elements to how we live now.
"…go out and see this as soon as possible."