The movie Little Fish has caused substantial chatter in the Australian film industry, which has been desperately trying to show the home team hasn’t lost the plot. Not only because the filmmakers lured Cate Blanchett back home for a lead role, but because it’s a genuinely brave film about a neglected part of our cultural landscape.
Director Rowan Woods, who made The Boys, plunges deep into the heart of Sydney’s west to the authentic Australian suburbs, where Aussie battlers collide with newer arrivals. Little Fish sounds broadly Australian in ways Neighbours does not, from the western suburb accents to the trackies and the ostentatious McMansions.
Blanchett plays Tracy Heart, a recovering addict trying to make something of her life. Working in a video store, she’s living with her mum (Noni Hazlehurst) and just waiting for the bank to approve her business loan. Everything seems on plan until the lives of those around her shift gear.
First, there’s Tracy’s junked father-figure, Lionel Dawson (Hugo Weaving). Lionel has a few problems of his own now his dealer and ex-lover Bradley The Jockey Thompson, coolly played by Sam Neill, announces he is retiring from his illegal activities. Then, her ex-junkie ex-boyfriend Jonny -“ 21 Jump Street’s Dustin Nguyen with a somewhat Kath & Kim tinged Aussie accent -“ shows up at the birthday of her brother Ray (Martin Henderson).
Woods extracts some truly spectacular performances from his cast, especially Weaving who is heartbreakingly good as Lionel, the queer, junked-out ex-rugby league champion struggling for forgiveness from those he loves. Blanchett is powerful as she unglamorously balances Tracy’s fragility with the right amount of fiery self-preservation, and Hazlehurst, as Tracy’s mum, completely nails the hard-bitten battler of Sydney’s west and is a true star. Henderson brings a blend of nervousness and cocky bravado to Tracy’s younger brother, a two-bit dealer looking to swim with bigger fish like Moss (Joel Toebeck), The Jockey’s fixer.
Woods insists Little Fish is not a crime film, and it isn’t, even though the story does tumble into the terrain of drug deals and double crosses. Woods is more tuned to the Shakespearian tragedy of Tracy’s world and the challenges facing his richly crafted and unpredictable characters struggling to untangle their messy lives. If you want to believe in Australian cinema again, then Little Fish is the film to see.
Sydney Star Observer has 10 double passes plus 10 copies of the Little Fish CD soundtrack to give away to 10 lucky readers. The first 10 people to email us at [email protected] with their details will receive a double pass and CD, which they can pick up from our office.