Angelfish (2019)

Peter Lee’s “Angelfish” is a very good drama romance about two people with varying obligations and turmoil finding love with one another. Often times when it hits, it hits hard, but when it fails, it tends to ruin the momentum of the narrative and drag on for quite a while. Shocking enough, “Angelfish” can sometimes feel long in the tooth, if only because it often feels like it’s padding the narrative rather than using those opportunities to add more dimension between our characters Brendan and Eva. That said, even in its imperfections, Peter Lee’s Bronx set drama is engaging and often times emotional.

Set in the Bronx in the summer of 1993, Brendan (Jimi Stanton) is a troubled but hard-working high school drop-out with a manipulative mother and a brother on the verge of self-destruction. Eva (Princess Nokia) is a bright, young woman about to start college in the fall, but with the pressure to make her family proud clashing with her own secret hopes and dreams for the future. Sparks fly when the two meet, and their respective worlds collide. As the young couple’s relationship develops, their home lives and dreams for the future threaten to tear their new and fragile love apart.

“Angelfish” has the benefit of actually being filmed in the Bronx, which gives it a real down home feeling from beginning to end. It also allows the narrative to feel much more pressing, as our characters are bound by familial obligations that promise to destroy any hope they have in the future. Brendan is focused on working while his brother is doomed to a life of crime and his mom is abusive and neglectful. Meanwhile Eva has aspirations to become an actress, but her obligations with her disabled brother and demanding mother make her feel as if it might all be just a pipe dream. “Angelfish” builds well on the separate back stories and conflict, in particular Brendan who despises his mother (Erin Davie is fantastic), but also wishes he could stop butting heads with her and start bonding with her.

“Angelfish” makes great use of its setting as director Peter Lee successfully paints the Bronx as a backdrop that’s ugly when Brendan and Eva are in pain, but magical when they seek comfort in each other’s arms. “Angelfish” also excels thanks to the downright stellar performances from the cast including Stanton and Nokia, both of whom handle the emotional weight of their sub-plots very well, and help flesh out complex and likable characters. All in all while it could have stood to work on some pacing issues, “Angelfish” is a top notch teen romance drama that deserves an audience.

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