Fish Out Of Water
6 Feb 2022
Amy Cotter, Alexandra Rose Wilson, Georgia Sansom
Tackling the extreme anxiety of attending a birthday party may have seemed obscure pre-pandemic but filmmaker Jacob Melling’s short film Fish Out of Water (based on a poem by Amy Cotter - who also stars) manages to capture a human experience altogether more relatable and potent in its execution given the society we find ourselves in today. It’s a film that deftly explores the maelstrom of emotions that can emerge when faced with a challenge without ever sinking from the heavy load.
Cotter plays the character of “Fish” - a young woman attempting to get up the energy to get ready for and attend a birthday party. The seemingly tortuous ablutions she must undergo are narrated by a delicately read poem that manages to inject brilliant moments of humour and pathos into the proceedings. Whereas the result could have been a fairly flat story of an introvert not wanting to go out, the poem elevates the piece into something far more thought-provoking and compelling.
This is then accompanied by striking and moving visuals that seem to encompass the central character’s inner torment. Her gloomy leg-shaving routine in the bathtub juxtaposes expertly with her gracefully holding her hand in the wind in front of an open ocean - and herein lies the strength of Fish Out of Water as a short film. It is these moments of contrast between the insignificant stresses of life against the potentially beautiful sequences life could offer that reveal the truth at the heart of the story.
The film explores the themes of isolation and being an introvert in a few ways but most centrally through the idea of water. From the main character’s name to the use of baths and oceans, the film is picking up on a quintessentially natural element and showing how it can be used to free, or indeed (metaphorically) drown a person. Are we able to keep flowing if our anxiety continually tries to pull us under? How can one really escape and fight against this tide?
Music is implemented splendidly in the film, with Aaron Douglas’ composition knowing exactly when to enhance the burning rage of “Fish” and when to back off and allow her continuing contemplation. And the end song sung by Tippi McGarry was a powerful choice to finish on.
Melling provides some exceptional cinematography during the film, such as the waves crashing on the beach or even the incredibly stressful shot of the kettle boiling. It could be argued the piece didn’t need to give dialogue to the external characters. Whilst this did provide additional context to the proceedings (the unaware friend trying to top trump who has had “life” harder recently, or the host ensuring she’s coming) it jolted this viewer momentarily out of what was a really powerful and personal piece. That said, this is an evocative piece of filmmaking that works on a multitude of levels that will likely touch a nerve with a huge audience.