A Fish Story

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
A Fish Story Movie Poster Image
Faith-based, supernatural drama has profanity, drinking.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 110 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Don't miss out on today for the sake of tomorrow.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nick is a loving father dedicated to his family and wife, but in the effort to build a cabin they can share together, he takes away time from the family. His police officer friend runs after a criminal who caused a fatal crash instead of staying with his dying friend. Nick's widow, Jane, drinks a little too much while she is in mourning. The family members support each other.


A man's truck fatally runs off the road when he tries to evade a pedestrian. He is shown pinned in the truck with blood on his face. A man jumps out of the speeding motorboat he stole, hits his head on a rock, and nearly dies; there is a small bit of blood on his head. Police on a manhunt shoot rifles. Kids pretend they've been shot. A woman points a shotgun at someone she doesn't trust. Two brothers argue and one punches the other. It appears that a depressed woman unsuccessfully tries to drown herself.


A man, in someone else's body, kisses his wife.


"S--t," "bitch," "crap," "jerkhead."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A woman drinks too much after her husband's death. Two young men drink alcohol around a campfire. Their 10-year-old sister grabs the bottle and takes a swig, then complains it tastes awful.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know A Fish Story is a Canadian drama that poses the supernatural premise that a dad killed in a car accident lingers around his mourning wife and kids and then takes over the body of the nearly dead guy who caused the accident so he can rejoin them. A car and boat crash are shown. A manhunt is organized, and there is shooting, resulting in what appears to be a gunshot death. It appears that a depressed woman unsuccessfully tries to drown herself. The movie references faith and heaven, but there's no mention of God or Jesus. A young girl takes a swig of alcohol without permission but suffers no lasting effects. A woman drinks too much after her husband's death. Expect to hear the words "s--t" and "bitch."

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What's the story?

A FISH STORY is a sort of second-coming movie, in which Nick, a man who dies in a car accident, takes over the body of the criminal who accidentally caused the crash. The man, called Eddie, is a small-time thief. He later has a crash, too, and on the edge of death, he allows Nick to live in his body. Nick, looking like Eddie, returns to his family and, through fishing and being nice, tries to heal the wounds Nick's death caused. Somehow Nick's 10-year-old daughter recognizes her father. When "Wanted" posters calling for Eddie's arrest start going up, she pulls them down, certain that the man who looks like Eddie is really her father returned from the dead. Soon her two adult brothers come to the same conclusion, as does the wife. It's not shown how, but Nick manages to escape the police, get back into Eddie's body, and die properly. Then, released from his corporeal self, Nick joins his own father, fishing in heaven.  

Is it any good?

A Fish Story is heartfelt but flawed. Performances are good, but they're the tent poles that prop up the illogically conceived, supernatural script by Sam Roberts, who also plays dead husband and father, Nick. Eddie McClintock of TV's Warehouse 13 as Eddie and Jayne Heitmeyer as Nick's wife produce touching moments that largely surpass the weakness of the fantasy on which the movie is based. The movie can't make up its mind as to its message. One character says, "Don't miss out on today for the sake of tomorrow," implying that all the work Nick put into building the family cabin stole moments he could have actually spent with the family. Yet, in contradiction, the cabin later turns out to be a comfort and meaningful legacy to the family after his death. So which is correct?

Another important-sounding but actually nonsensical message is, "A promise made is a debt unpaid" (which is a line from a favorite poem of the screenwriter's), but if the promise is fulfilled, how is the debt unpaid? Most puzzling of all is, "I was never a religious man, but I always had faith that I was something more than just a convenient believer." This is a statement that loops inside of itself until it has no discernible meaning at all. Finally, Nick decides that he agrees with that old aphorism, "Everything happens for a reason." Perhaps it means that he understands the reason he died in the car accident and left his wife and children bereft. Maybe he understands, but certainly not because the movie explains it.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what you think happens after death. Do you think people stick around watching their loved ones, unseen and unheard?

  • What do you think the narrator means when he says that he has "never been a religious man" but he has always "had faith"?

  • Do you think it would help if a dead person came back briefly to be with his family, or would the family mourn all over again after his second departure?

Movie details

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