Little Fish – Review

Little Fish
Little Fish – Review


Little Fish, a romance set in a near-future Seattle teetering on the brink of calamity, is the fourth feature film from director Chad Hartigan. Little Fish stars Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, Bates Motel), Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Skins), Soko (Her, The Dancer), and Raúl Castillo (Looking, We The Animals).

Little Fish opens in the midst of a global epidemic: Neuroinflammatory Affliction (NIA), a severe and rapid Alzheimer’s-like condition in which people’s memories disappear, in some cases fading over weeks or months, in others vanishing in an instant.

The film centers on couple Jude Williams and Emma Ryerson as they grapple with the realities of NIA, interspersed with glimpses from the past as the two meet and their relationship blooms. But as NIA’s grip on society tightens, blurring the lines between the past and the present, it becomes more and more difficult to know what’s true and what’s false.

When I first heard the title “Little Fish” I thought “little” of it. Nomen est Omen as the saying goes. I then watched it, expecting a sad love story, which is essentially what this movie is. It’s a very sad Little Fish. I liked it, though. However, in a time of a real pandemic, watching a sad movie about a fictional pandemic that causes memory loss and ultimately loss of self and your loved ones, you really need to be in the right mind set when watching this, because it is … sad.

Jude (Jack O’Connell) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) meet at the beach, fall in love and eventually marry, all this is narrated by Emma in flashbacks. Emma recounts first cases of Neuro-Inflammatory Affliction (NIA), the marathon runner who forgot to stop running, a fisherman who forgot how to steer a boat and tried to swim back to shore or a bus driver who forgot he was a bus driver and just stopped the bus, got out and left the passenger behind in the bus. Any romantic notion of these incidents is quelled as we hear about pilots forgetting how to fly a plane and crashing and subsequently the disease hits home and starts affecting friends and family, her mother and ultimately her husband, Jude.

Some forget everything at once, others fade away slowly over time, drawing comparisons to Alzheimer’s disease. Which is worse? What makes you love a person, the memories you have together? The memories you make together or the memories you try to save, every day, each day? We don’t get to see the grand scale effects of the pandemic as Little Fish is just that about two “little fish”. It’s also not about the medical details on how this disease would realistically affect people. NIS makes you forget things, but the things that are forgotten are all seemingly selected for the purpose of dramatizing the loss of self. You better not start asking why they can remember to go shopping, use the bathroom, not soil themselves or any of the other horrible things one does not want to think about when it comes to a non functioning brain. Then again, NIS is not Alzheimer’s and the detailed medical implications do not really matter. It’s about two people who love each other and try and hold on to each other as long as they can until they can’t, until they can’t even remember why they are sad anymore. Ignorance is bliss they say… is it though?

I get it that some people may rate this film low, as it is slow, constructed around two characters, it’s all low key, mellow melancholic and quite beautiful. Two ordinary people, doing ordinary things, a vet and a photographer, trying to make a living in a world that has gone mad. Cooke and O’Connell are great together and manage to inject bittersweet humor into scenes that just feel natural, like taking a bath together and Jude discovering Emma’s little fish tattoo on her ankle, which he finds funny, because he has no clue why she would have it and when she drags up his leg and shows him that he has one, too, he still doesn’t remember but finds it hilarious that they have matching tattoos. It resonates, it lingers, it stays with you.

The movie is full of little moments like this, which Emma and Jude cherish as they try to save them by labelling Polaroids and writing down memories in journals and we as viewers get to cherish with them, we also are reminded that time is fleeting and in this race against time underlined by the sublime score from Keegan DeWitt, what counts most is to get to spend time with the ones we love and hopefully, we will remember it.

When Emma is sitting at the beach at the end we are back at the beginning. Emma doesn’t remember. She doesn’t remember why she is sad, she doesn’t remember their dog Blue or Jude. We remember, we remember for Emma, we remember for Jude. Yet, we are all little fish in an endless ocean of beginnings and endings, hoping that someone will remember us.

LITTLE FISH is available on IFC Films Unlimited June 2nd. Be sure to remember that date.


  • Strong Chemistry between Lead Characters
  • Sublime Soundtrack
  • Great use of flashbacks


  • Grand Scale pandemic angle unsatisfactory


Alexander has been around the internet since some time (FidoNet anyone?) and has been an avid cineast for even longer, with over a decade of stage acting and almost two decades in the computer game business and over four decades of IT and entertainment media experience, which is to say, he watched countless movies and series and played way too many video games on too many platforms. He currently resides near Paris, France and has gotten back into writing, when he is not out fishing with his son.

Lost Password