Set in New York’s The in the early ‘90s, Angelfish is the intimate story of two young lovers. Brendan (Jimi Stanton) is a high-school dropout attempting to get by in life with little help from his neglectful mother, and Eva (Princess Nokia), a Puerto Rican woman trying to break free of her life in the Bronx to become an actress.
After meeting at the local deli market that Brendan works at, he actively pursues Eva in order to get to know her. However, as Brendan’s home life becomes significantly harder to deal with and Eva is pressured by her family to begin a relationship with someone else, the two are forced to drift apart even though their feelings for each other grow stronger.
Angelfish captures the two different cultures of our main characters incredibly well, especially in the moments we are seeing Eva interact with her Puerto Rican family. However, the film does a great job of the balancing act of showing the differences, but also the similarities in the struggles both our main characters face during their separate adversities.
Director Peter Lee has the right elements to create the atmosphere required for a believable romance. The cinematography is tight and intimate on the characters at all time. While this can sometimes not capture the Bronx-esque surroundings to create a sense of life in this world, the choice to focus more on the characters forces the audience to be more immersed into their story. The soundtrack is also a great accompaniment for the sense of joyous, heartfelt love that the movie wishes to convey.
The film’s script contains most the issues that come to light. Without feeling like a parody, the situations feel like clichés and side characters like stereotypes that don’t break surface level when it comes to emotional depth. Brendan’s alcoholic mum and brother who is hanging with the wrong crowd and experimenting with drugs is just that and only serve to create a small amount of extra tension. We don’t ever really get to see Brendan fully deal with how this is affecting him, the audience is just told that it is affecting him sporadically throughout.
The same happens with Eva, as she deals with her family trying to partner her with a man who is seeing other women, and then is shocked by the arrival on an ex-boyfriend who initially had moved away from The Bronx. The clichés are exacerbated by some amateur acting, which isn’t to knock these people for trying because it genuinely feels like they are trying, it unfortunately just doesn’t come across as well for the audience to be immersed emotionally.
A completely passable romantic drama where even at the times when the story and characters can feel like one-dimensional clichés, there is still an element of authenticity in the filmmaking that keeps you invested in the young lovers, rooting for them to make it through to the end.
Review by Nick L’Barrow.
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