The feeling of being childless, whether that means to lose a child by death or not being able to have a child rings heavy in the film Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes. Films cannot often balance the heavy weight of dark psychology with slight touches of humor and suspense yet Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes manages to create a thought provoking yet entertaining film.
Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes centers around an acerbic, sharp tongued teen (Emanuel) who lives with her father and stepmother (who cannot have children). With her upcoming 18th birthday, Emanuel deals the issues associated with that day as her mother died while giving birth to her. At the same time, she becomes obsessed with her new single mother neighbor Linda who moves in next door. Because the new neighbor bears a striking resemblance to her mother, Emanuel offers to baby sit for Linda’s newborn daughter. As the two spend more time together, they develop a bond while at the same time Linda secrets and past become intertwined in their newly formed relationship.
Rife with dark humor and psychological intrigue, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes manages to keep the audience off-balance with a rich script and well developed characters. Writer/director Francesca Gregorini (Tanner Hall) maintains the film’s tone while continuing to escalate the tension. Instead of being just a director, Gregorini acts like a juggler as she manages to deftly balance the surreal aspects and real pain. Because Gregorini experienced loss in real life, she brings an honesty and real flavor to her film.
The film offers solid preferences from newcomer Kaya Scodelario as Emanuel and Jessica Biel manages to play a part (Linda) that displays a performance not typical for her. The always dependable Alfred Molina turns in a good turn as the father.
The film with the long title offers an experience ripe with tone and flavor. Caught somewhere between Rosemary’s Baby and Lars and the Real Girl, Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes represents of the “sleepers” here at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Hopefully this baby sleeper will awaken after a good nap so that more people can enjoy it.