Review of Swim Little Fish Swim by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky
French writer-directors Lola Bessis and Ruben Amar tell the story about a struggling couple, an aspiring musician “Leeward,” (Dustin Guy Defa) and a nurse “Mary,” (Brooke Bloom) and their young daughter. While hippie, artsy Leeward thinks he’s going to make it as a musician, Mary is working a real job to provide for their daughter in Swim Little Fish Swim.
Lola Bessis makes her appearance as 19-year-old “Lilas,” escaping her famous mother’s shadow to be a video artist – and crashing on Leeward and Mary’s couch. If she can prove that she’s professionally employed as an “artist” within 10 days of her visa expiring, she can stay in New York instead of returning to France – but her world-famous artist mother “Francoise” (Anne Consigny) doesn’t make her life easier. Lilas also complicates things between Leeward and Mary, making their tiny apartment even more cramped. While Mary calls her daughter “Maggie,” (Olivia Durling Costello) Leeward channels his inner hippie and calls her “Rainbow.” The couple is desperate to move to a house, but their money problems keep getting in their way. A solution? Leeward can accept a job offer to compose a jingle for a television commercial, but because he’s an “artist,” he refuses to take it, making Mary understandably more frustrated.
The film focuses on the typical art versus business argument, all while using a shaky camera and lacking any energy to make it enjoyable. As Leeward sits around with his grungy friends, Mary works hard and seems to be the only one with her head on straight. But both actors are convincing as these characters, with Defa playing Leeward as selfish and Bloom as struggling, strong Mary.
Swim Little Fish Swim as a whole, however, is slow and quiet but not in a way that’s engaging. It’s frustrating watching a man refusing to grow up and provide for his family but instead, turns to young Lilas as a creative outlet. Furthermore, the filmmakers make Mary out to be the villain, bursting her husband’s musical bubble when all she’s trying to do is make a better life for them and their precious daughter.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (10/14/14)
Top Photo: Lola Bessis as “Lilas”
Bottom Photo: Brooke Bloom as “Mary” and Olivia Durling Costello as “Maggie”
Q: Does Swim Little Fish Swim pass the Bechdel Test?
Technically, yes. The mother/daughter relationships pass the Bechdel Test. With Lilas dealing with her famous mother and Mary raising Maggie (aka Rainbow), there are relationships between the women, but I cannot recommend the film.