Review: The Life of Fish (2010)

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Steve Rhodes

Mar 3, 2011, 9:59:17 PM3/3/11

A film review by Steve Rhodes

Copyright 2010 Steve Rhodes

RATING (0 TO ****): *** 1/2

The strange but surprisingly aptly named THE LIFE OF FISH is a story as
lovely and dreamy as the peaceful aquarium fish who appear frequently.
But, while the fish swim about without seemingly a care in the world,
the characters in Matias Bize's hauntingly lovely tale are full of
regrets and doubts.

Set at a party in Chile, the film is a talkfest a la BEFORE SUNRISE.
Most such films are packed with dialog like an overstuffed grocery bag,
but THE LIFE OF FISH features conversation spoken slowly and sparsely as
if every word must count.

Andres (Santiago Cabrera) has returned home for a short visit after
spending ten years away from childhood friends in Chile. Living in
Berlin now and working as a well-known travel writer, he is the envy of
all of his old buds. Soon, however, it is clear that he is by far the
unhappiest person in the room. Filled with remorse about paths not
taken, he denigrates the importance of his job, saying that he just goes
on magazine assignments and follows prearranged scripts. He even admits
to making up stories when he gets bored and doesn't want to leave his
hotel room.

What Andres cares about a lot are his old friends and what they have
been doing with their lives. All of them appear to be married with kids.
While they all having varying degrees of complaints about their lives,
he is jealous of their happiness. Having had only one relationship while
abroad, which didn't work out, he would love to have what his friends

This bittersweet tale really hits its emotional peaks when Andres and
his old girlfriend Beatriz (Blanca Lewin) start talking about their old
lives together. Beatriz has kids and ties that make her quite unlikely
to run off with an old boyfriend who will be leaving on the midnight
plane, but anything is possible, one supposes, as the smoldering
intensity of their conversation subtly begins to explore what is still

With warm and intimate interior cinematography that almost appears to be
lit by golden candlelight and with soaring music and songs, the
production quality of the film matches the poignant and mesmerizing
acting in evidence in every scene. The last sequence in the movie, which
is sans dialog, is easily the most powerful and best. The director draws
it out like a conductor who keeps the orchestra playing the last note in
a symphony as the audience holds its breath.

THE LIFE OF FISH runs 1:23. The film is in Spanish with English

The film is being shown as part of San Jose's Cinequest Film Festival
(, which runs March 1-13, 2011.



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