The Fish Child [El Nio Pez]

"Very Good"

The Fish Child [El Nio Pez] Review


Filmmaker Puenzo reunites with her XXY star Efron for this intriguingly warm and textured thriller. The plot kind of goes off the rails, but the internal drama is beautifully written and played.

In Buenos Aires, rich teen Lala (Efron) has fallen in love with her low-caste maid Ailin (Vitale). Lala's brother (Doregger) is just home from rehab, and her judge father (Munne) is getting death threats, so they're oblivious to Lala's dream to run off to Ailin's abandoned family home in Paraguay and live happily ever after. But their crazy plan goes awry, leaving Lala in Paraguay, where she meets Ailin's former soap-star dad (Andre), and Ailin in Argentina, where she's cornered by the cops for something Lala did.

The film's real story is of two young women finding their independence in a male-dominated society. This develops in a complex and fascinating way, with all kinds of harsh revelations and surprising moments that draw on the considerable skills of the young cast. Puenzo has a firm grip on this aspect of the film; the interaction between Efron and Vitale is extremely powerful, and this extends to their scenes with the men around them.

Oddly, two things that distract us along the way. The first is the Paraguayan fable of the title, about a little lake-dwelling boy who cares for the spirits of drowned children. And the second is a colourful crime boss (Velasquez) who threatens to turn the film into a Latina Thelma & Louise with gun-blazing girls on the run. Both of these elements are essentially red herrings, and they kind of weaken the punch of the much stronger core narrative.

Fortunately, that central focus is so emotive that it keeps us gripped. And it also helps that Puenzo films it like a dreamlike fairy tale, with magical imagery that really sparks the imagination and bridges the out-of-sequence storytelling. Even as the luxuriant imagery and pace give way to a more grim action thriller, the film is thoroughly involving. And it so astutely and artfully grapples with issues of both class and gender that it can't be ignored.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Foreign

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Lucia Puenzo

Producer:

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