out of Five
Running time: 96 mins
This dark and occasionally suspenseful drama is an enjoyable watch thanks to some strong performances and Francesca Gregorini’s sharp script, however the dream sequences are a little misplaced and the lead character is unfortunately a little hard to warm to.
What’s it all about?
Written, directed and produced by Francesca Gregorini, Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes stars Kaya Scodelario as Emanuel, an acerbic, troubled teen who’s struggling to come to terms with her upcoming eighteenth birthday, which also marks the anniversary of her mother’s death after she passed away whilst giving birth to her. When Linda (Jessica Biel), an attractive single mother moves in next door with her newborn baby, Emanuel notices that she bears a striking resemblance to her late mother and when her father Dennis (Alfred Molina) and her uptight stepmother, Janice (Frances O’Connor) mention that Linda is looking for a babysitter, the intrigued Emanuel immediately puts herself forward. As time goes by, Linda and Emanuel become increasingly close and when Linda reveals a deep, dark and surprising secret, Emanuel makes every effort to protect it.
Returning with her second feature film after 2009’s Tanner Hall, Francesca Gregorini presents this overall enjoyable film that’s surprisingly dark and occasionally disturbing. Without giving too much away, Gregorini’s screenplay is powerful and ambitious, thanks to its sharp and occasionally funny dialogue, compelling female relationships and unexpected, yet welcome twists and turns.
Jessica Biel surprises with an impressive and convincing performance that’s ultimately a little against the grain for her and Frances O’Connor is great as the housewife stepmother who’s awkwardly desperate to get close to Emanuel after finding it hard to conceive herself. Finally, the stylishly shot film is gorgeous to look at and the dark, gloomy score works incredibly well.
Unfortunately, the film’s titular and lead character, Emanuel, is rather unlikeable and isn’t quite brought to life well enough by the usually talented Kaya Scodelario. With her unjust surly attitude and tendency to self-pity, Emanuel can be frustratingly selfish and unfair to the people around her and as a result, she’s a little challenging to root for. This is a shame, as a more congenial character and a better performance would have really breathed more life into this film and made it ultimately more memorable. Finally, although Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes is well paced and built appropriately, the middle act sags ever so slightly and whilst the fantasy sequences promise greater things for Gregorini, they’re a little misplaced.
Even though its lead character ought to be a little bit more likeable, Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes is still an enjoyable watch thanks to its unusual narrative and stylish visuals.