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Angelfish

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Angelfish Movie Poster Image
Excellent coming-of-age drama; alcoholism, cursing.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 96 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Explores themes of trying to find your own place in the world while also trying to meet family obligations. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Brendan works to support his younger brother and alcoholic mother, avoids the bad influences of peers who hang out outside smoking, drinking, and dealing drugs, and tries his best to help his younger brother do the same. Eva is willing to forego her dreams to help take care of a disabled relative. 

Violence
Sex

Some kissing. 

Language

"F--k" used several times. "S--t," "a--hole," "d--k," "bitch," "hell." Spanish slang term for testicles infrequently used; Spanish slang term for "young whore." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The mother of one of the lead characters is an alcoholic, spending all of her time and money at the bars or on bottles at home; she's often shown drunk and surly. Teens hang out on a corner, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and marijuana. Drug dealing. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Angelfish is a 2019 coming-of-age drama in which a young man and woman from different neighborhoods in the Bronx find romance while facing daunting responsibilities. The mother of the lead character is an alcoholic, and is often drunk, surly, and completely self centered. Teens hang out outside an apartment building drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and marijuana. A character gets arrested for taking part in a drug deal (not shown). "F--k" regularly used. There's also "s--t," "a--hole," "d--k," "bitch," "hell," and Spanish slang terms. This movie stars Princess Nokia, a popular rap artist and activist. 

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What's the story?

In ANGELFISH Brendan works in the deli of a Bronx grocery store, trying to provide for himself and his teen brother because their mother is an alcoholic. One day, Eva (Princess Nokia) comes into the store, and after Brendan tells off a guy trying to pick her up, the two begin to get to know each other. While Brendan tries to keep his younger brother from hanging out with the wrong crowd, Eva wants to pursue acting, but doesn't want to disappoint her mother who wants Eva to go to college for accounting and to also continue helping to take care of a disabled relative. As their romance continues to grow, the couple faces challenges from those around them; Brendan's mother acts like a racist bully towards Eva, and an ex-boyfriend of Eva has returned from Puerto Rico looking to reconnect. Will these challenges be too much for the couple?

Is it any good?

There's a self-assuredness to this film that's refreshing. While set in 1990s Bronx, Angelfish doesn't beat you over the head with '90s reference and nostalgia. While the story of a budding romance between a white boy and Puerto Rican girl, the movie avoids the heavy-handedness of exaggerating these differences, allowing the story and the characters to grow organically. What ultimately emerges is that it isn't necessarily the story of a relationship between "opposites," but really the story of two characters trying to stand on their own two feet in spite of the demands and responsibilities circumstances have placed upon them. 

The writing in the movie is excellent -- not only in dialogue that comes off as believable, but also in how the depth and stories of the main and secondary characters come through. The acting conveys a range of moods and subtleties, a study in working-class characters trying, succeeding, or failing at keeping their lives together. The directing, acting, and dialogue all combine to create a beautiful movie that manages to avoid so many of the cliches of period pieces, coming-of-age movies, and the ups and downs of a budding relationship between opposites. 

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about coming-of-age dramas. How does Angelfish compare to other movies in which characters face daunting challenges while figuring out who they are? 

  • How does this compare to other stories about two characters from different backgrounds who fall in love? 

  • This movie is set in the early 1990s. What are some of the ways in which the movie evokes that time period? 

Movie details

For kids who love coming-of-age tales

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