Rowan Woods’ 2005 film, Little Fish is a compelling look at the long-lasting complexities and aftermath of addiction. Cate Blanchett stars as Tracey, a thirtysomething recovering addict trying to get her life back together but is simply floating along. It’s a long slog from junkie to video store clerk living with her mom to being the entrepreneur of her dreams. Tracey’s path to a straight life is impeded by the human detritus of her relationships with current and past addicts, including her ex-boyfriend Jonny (Dustin Nguyen) whose reappearance uproots Tracey’s life.
The titular “Little Fish” refers to the plastic fish that are the preferred delivery system for liquid heroin as distributed by Sam Neill, who is frightening even as a leisure-suited drug kingpin with a comb-over. When he gets his hooks into a troubled family friend, junkie, and ex-football star Lionel Dawson, it takes an enormous emotional toll on Tracey.
The film’s script relies heavily on the skills of the cast, and the actors do not disappoint. Cate Blanchett is luminous, subtle, and skillful as the stumbling Tracey. Lionel is played by Hugo Weaving, who is perhaps best known as Elrond from Lord of the Rings trilogy, but is not looking very elfin in this complex and dark role. The cinematography is captivating, the soundtrack is haunting, and with the skills of the cast, the movie more than establishes Rowan Woods as a serious director.
Little Fish airs on IFC at 6 p.m. ET