Nominated in 13 and winning in five categories at the Australian Film Institute Awards, 'Little Fish' reunites 'Lord of the Rings' stars Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, who took home the Best Actress and Actor gongs for their performances in Rowan Woods' drug drama.
Recovering heroin addict Tracy Heart (Blanchett) was introduced to the drug by her mother's former partner Lionel Dawson (Weaving). Lionel, a one-time Australian Rules legend, sells himself to crime boss The Jockey (Neill) for fixes, but now faces having to sell off his career memorabilia to get high because The Jockey is retiring from the underworld.
While Tracy has been clean for four years she still sees Lionel and her straight and narrow path is further threatened by the return of her former boyfriend Jonny (Nguyen), who has arrived from Canada to set up a big score with her brother Ray (Henderson). It's a score that will put all their lives in danger.
While Woods' film looks like a starring vehicle for Blanchett, it's really an ensemble piece and it's all the performances combined which keep you hooked even when 'Little Fish's plot isn't all that it could be. Weaving is superb as the sweating and shaking Lionel; Hazlehurst plays the over-protective mother to perfection and Neill shows that he should be cast as a villain far more often.
The main problem is that the film could've mixed character and crime far better. Commendably, Woods is in no hurry to get to a conclusion; the disappointment is that when it arrives the showdown feels somehow tacked on and unsatisfying. A shame, given the strength of the build-up that went before it.
Woods does a good job of depicting people who are all trying to put distance between themselves and something or someone but some of the relationships in the storyline could've been developed further, in particular the Lionel-Jockey and Ray-Jonny dynamics. That said, these gripes only arise because some of the scenes are so good you want more of them.
If you're looking for a performance-driven antidote to summer blockbusters, and are willing to overlook a heavily-laboured water metaphor, well, dive in.