John Sayles was the subject of a special retrospective at this year’s Dublin Film Festival whre Passion Fish was the hugely successful opening film. He has recently finished shooting his first overseas feature, The Secret of Roan Inish, in Co Donegal.
Mary Alice knows she’s a bitch. Before the credits, a speeding taxi has transformed her life from that of nationally known actress of television soaps to a chairbound paraplegic and dipsomaniac, isolated in a peeling house in the Louisiana bayou where she gives live in nurse’s hell. Nobody stays for long. Cue for the entry of Chantelle, a woman of different colour and no particular sympathy for her dryly cantankerous charge.
So far so familiar, but the latest film from America’s best known independent director subtly confounds expectations with an acute dissection of the shifting currents of emotional reserve and accord. Neither woman is immediately likable but each has her reasons and the film charts a gradual thaw to end on a note of poignant, hesitant promise. Humorous and wholly unsentimental , Passion Fish scores with terrific performances, unhurried, satisfying pace and palpable sense of locale.