Francesca Gregorini’s Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes takes a dive into a fragile world of Emanuel (Kaya Scodelario), a young girl who’s mother died giving birth to her. With the arrival of a new neighbour, young mother Linda (Jessica Biel), the pair grow close and when Emanuel discovers a disturbing secret she becomes entwined in their world and inadvertently a gatekeeper of the secret.
The story at the heart of this film is an unconventional and yet strong one, a sense of something you can’t quite put your finger on sits with you as the film begins and after a while it becomes clear why you have this feeling. Capatilising on this a tension is brought up and built through great direction, a solid story foundation, and truly excellent performances from especially the young Kaya. The only weak point is there are a few moments where the dialogue feels a little unnatural but the well developed characters and the performances carry this through.
The stark and beautiful world of Emanuel is portrayed largely in scenes of realism, however surrealism is used effectively to delve beyond the everyday and provides stunning on screen moments that really help convey the characters emotions and act as a real bridge in the story after the big crescendo.
Jessica Biel commits to this role fearlessly and in perhaps one of the first ‘serious’ roles i’ve seen her in, does well but the real stars of this are the young Kaya Scodelario in the lead role and a superb supporting cast including Alfred Molina who expertly portrays an exhausted but unrelenting Emanuel’s father, Francis O’Connor who is startlingly brilliant as Janice, the step mother, a woman who is a bundle of contained desperation and frustration and Aneurin Barnard who plays Claude offers moments of innocence and beauty with his character .
Another huge bonus for women in film and supporters of women in film is that this film passes the Bechdel test.
Overall a rewarding watch which will suck you into a world which seems unnerving but leaves you feeling wholly satisfied.