By Mark Bell | January 15, 2013

When David isn’t working at a pet shop, he’s at home caring for his two younger siblings Jeffrey (Maximillian Sherer) and Dee (Nicole Ehinger). With Mom (Haviland Morris) going through a severe depression that requires hospitalization, David takes on the role of parent, though he longs to be as free as other people his age, a feeling that becomes all the more apparent when he meets Chris (Halley Feiffer), a young woman enamored with the pet shop’s birds, or at least pining for their freedom.

Matters get more complicated when David’s older sister Alice (Anna Moore) returns home after years away. An odd tension exists between the two, and at first it appears to be there because Alice left while David remained responsibly behind. The truth is slowly revealed, however, when the two get a little too close for sibling comfort.

Annette Apitz’s Fighting Fish tackles a number of dramatic themes, including the not-often-explored subject of incest, in as delicate and tasteful a manner as possible. Small town dynamics and escapist elements exist in many an indie film, but those elements are more on the fringe of a film that is really about family, and the sometimes inappropriate way in which siblings left adrift try to put that family back together.

Because make no mistake about it, this isn’t some controversy-for-controversy’s sake, erotic thriller about a brother and sister drawn to each other sexually. Instead, this is about a brother and sister who, by no fault of their own, find themselves stuck in the roles of Mom and Dad to two younger siblings. And in their roles as parents, they’ve found the connection that many parents have for each other. It’s inappropriate because they’re brother and sister; it’s disturbing because no scenario should make them think that it’s okay to be that way. The truth is, however, that they’re lost and abandoned even as they act as the rock for others around them, and their emotions have been misdirected as a result.

It’s such a complex subject, and so easily disregarded, that had it been handled in a sensationalistic fashion, the entire film would’ve failed. Instead, it’s a plot point, albeit a big one, but it’s not entirely what this film is about. Again, it’s about finding and building family, while also maintaining the independence of self. Chris represents that independence for David, David represents that foundation from reckless freedom for Alice. They’re at odds with each other, and thus that’s where the real dramatic conflicts lie.

Annette Apitz has made a strong film with some tough subject matter, but she handled it about as well, if not more so, than could’ve ever been expected. This isn’t a circus sideshow, it’s a character study of flawed individuals that is memorable in its execution.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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