EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES is a text that needs to be dwelled upon. Interpretation will not necessarily come quickly, but that is a very good thing. Good cinema entertains, great cinema stays with you, and Gregorini’s latest feature will do that, for better or worse. With its lyrical dialogue and potent symbolism, the writer/producer/director’s second feature is a daring work that deals with family, grief, guilt, friendship, repulsion and redemption. It is, primarily, a female driven film that is pushed along by the relationship between Emanuel and her new neighbour, Linda.
In the first scene, Gregorini lays breadcrumbs for future dynamics when Emanuel tells her stepmother (Frances O’Connor) that she had a sexual dream about her and that it’s merely a sign of the Electra complex. This not only foreshadows a Sapphic subtext, but implies that much of what we will see relates to the subconscious. The friendship that blossoms between the girl and her neighbour could be seen as maternal, sexual, or even incestuous, but is always tender when conveyed by such career defining performances.
Frances O’Connor and Alfred Molina are predictably superb, and while this will no doubt be a breakout role for Scodelario, it is Jessica Biel who shines, never better than she is here. Known primarily for her action roles, this could mean great things for the long serving Biel and hopefully a step to more dramatic roles that show us what she is truly capable of.
It could be said that the film has something of a film school vibe to it, with the dialogue occasionally feeling like the end result of a screenwriting seminar. But art is about interpretation, and though not everyone will like EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES, people will come away with different readings and feelings – surely hatred is better than apathy. But many men will direct this anger toward the film being too female-centric, which is completely reductive. Gregorini’s film is divisive, but you go out with a feeling that you will be left dwelling on for quite some time. And that is how you know it is art.