Now Streaming: Angelfish(2019) - Reviewed

Romantic dramas are a genre overflowing with uninspired ideas and woefully regrettable performances.  Rarely are these films approached with humanity and nuance, with many artists opting for a quick cash out from rom-com date nights.  Then there are the remarkable exceptions.  Peter Lee's wonderfully authentic and raw debut Angelfish is a wonderful slice of New York life, that tells an all too familiar tale with characters who are so real, they walk off the screen and into the viewer's heart. 

Brendan and Eva, from different neighborhoods in the Bronx, cautiously, hopelessly fall in love.  What follows is a story about overcoming obstacles and taking chances when the outcome is uncertain.  This is a simple, beautifully told story that everyone has scene dozens of times.  The difference is in how real every frame, ever breath, every look is.  Jimi Stanton (Brendan) and Princess Nokia (Eva) are pure wonder to watch.  Their organic, undeniable chemistry is painfully restrained, symbolizing a lifetime of struggles and heartbreaks.  Stanton has a sense of underlying anger that never overflows while Nokia is filled with passion and creativity that is stifled by perceived familial obligations.  The power of this film is that it is as it is.  There is no melodrama.  While, admittedly, the story checks off the romance boxes one at a time, it does so in a perfectly muted manner, letting the viewer focus only on the principles. These are people whom you are rooting for from the jump.  

 Jamal Solomon's patient cinematography has a vibrant energy that instantly puts the viewer at ease.  Slow, meandering shots of Eva and Brendan walking, discover hidden paradises as they also discover one another...this is what it means to find love.  Esteban Aburto and Erin Greenwell’s editing has a rhythm to it that binds Lee’s screenplay together with the sights and sounds of a lived in, but never used up New York.

Now available on Tubi, Angelfish is a heartwarming film about real people.  There are no clich├ęs, no monologues of love conquers all.  Everything is left on the table for the viewer to assemble themselves.  A pair of wonderfully understated performances entwine to create a New York love story for the ages about immigrants and impoverished families who struggle to not only survive, but to find their place in a world filled with heartbreak and disappointment.  The wonder is in how this picture acknowledges these truths without preaching and opts to overcome them with love and acceptance.

--Kyle Jonathan