Little fish review: A pandemic love story and the first must-see film of 2021

Little Fish is a pandemic love story that is nearly perfect from start to finish. Within the first 10 minutes, it was clear that I was watching something special. Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) and Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) will make you laugh out loud and make you cry off and on before the movie ends.

Little Fish is set in the very near future in a world where a new pandemic is raging. I should note that this movie was written and filmed before the COVID outbreak and the virus is nothing like COVID.

The virus, called “N-I-A” attacks the brain and causes memory loss. Very similar to Alzheimer’s except the effects can hit very suddenly and affects both the young and old.

When we are introduced to the virus we read about the sailor who forgot how to sail while in the middle of the ocean, the runner who forgot to stop running during a marathon, and a pilot who forgot how to fly mid-flight. Things progressively get worse until you either go mad or fade away.

This sounds terrifying, but in the midst of this, Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell) find love. We get to see their romance from its start. From courtship to marriage and beyond as they try to navigate a world where at any moment either of them may start to forget the other.

The two have amazing chemistry and you can’t help but root for them as the film goes along. The beauty of their relationship and knowing that this virus is looming also increases your dread.

Cooke and O’Connell’s romance in Little Fish is anything but forgettable

The story is told non-linearly at times, hopping back to different points in the relationship as the pair test each other on the details that got them to the current day. Olivia Cooke narrates at different points as she’s telling the story of their love from the very beginning until the end of the film and it’s these touches that help set a trap for you.

For moments at a time, you may not be able to tell if you’re watching something from the present or the past and this leads to some dramatic revelations by the end.

My favorite thing about Little Fish is that it is a romance film without any of the typical sappiness of romance films. There are many beautiful scenes, many touching scenes, and many very romantic scenes but there isn’t a line that you’re going to jokingly want to say to your partner after watching it. The romance feels real. Both the highs and the lows.

Little Fish Still

Olivia Cooke as ‘Emma’, Jack O’ Connell as ‘Jude’, Raul Castillo as ‘Ben’ and Soko as ‘Samantha’ in Chad Hartigan’s LITTLE FISH. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

Set in Seattle and filmed in Seattle, Vancouver, and Langley British Columbia (Canada) Little Fish makes the most of its setting. There are many scenes near the water or in wooded areas and the atmosphere sets the tone.

There is no questioning that this is a special film. I am usually very long-winded in my reviews because I feel the need to sell the reader but in this case, if I could get away with writing “just watch the movie” I would have done it.

IFC Films has had a great run during the pandemic as Little Fish becomes the latest hit to come through the distributor.

Where to watch Little Fish

Since we are in an actual pandemic, you may wonder if you’ll have a chance to see the movie in your area. Little Fish will be available in some theaters but if that’s not an option for you where you are, it will also be available on-demand. If you can find it, definitely add it to your list.

Little Fish arrives in theaters and on-demand on Feb. 5, 2021.