Goldfish Memory

Goldfish Memory


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A light-hearted look at dating habits in contemporary Dublin, Goldfish Memory is a slight, amiable film which benefits from confident performances and a willingness to challenge its own myths.

Sean Campion's restless university lecturer, Tom, seduces a succession of his students by telling them that goldfish only have a three-second memory, and that new lovers are like those goldfish, forgetting all the pain of past romances and throwing themselves into love again. At first the film's other characters seem to substantiate this idea, with mistreated goldfish and lovers everywhere; but Tom has lessons to learn about what he really wants out of life, and gradually the ensemble come to demonstrate more strength, passion and complexity. What begins as a frantic interplay of confused emotions ends as something more graceful and substantial, despite several characters deciding to keep their options open.

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Although Goldfish Memory has attracted attention as a piece of queer cinema, winning awards at the Copenhagen, Indianapolis and Turin lesbian and gay film festivals, it concerns itself little with perceived differences between gay and straight relationships, and is mercifully free of righteous indignation at stereotyped homophobia - if anything, it is more concerned with the differences in its various characters' ages, and how this affects their desires.

In many ways, it is profoundly conventional, especially in its take on marriage and the desire for parenthood. Older characters are over-hasty to fall in love, as younger characters are over-hasty to fall into bed. Some of the young people are portrayed as very young, perhaps unfairly, in terms of their ability to recognise their own desires, and the characters are not always strong enough to justify this in narrative terms. The story sometimes takes on too much, attempting to show a range of different relationship possibilities, and it doesn't have time to develop all its storylines, leaving some seeming flimsy and unrealistic.

The standout performance comes from Flora Montgomery, winner of the Monte Carlo film festival's Best Actress award, as a journalist who is outwardly confident but romantically vulnerable. Introduced in the context of an awkward relationship with a flighty younger woman, Montgomery builds up a strong presence and keeps audience attention even in poorly structured later scenes.

The impression is of a film which has been heavily edited, with whole pieces of plot excised, yet aspects of its haphazard form are clearly deliberate; life, as seen here, is something which happens to people, with only Tom and charismatic cycle courier Red (McErlean) prepared to take a more active role. This passivity can become frustrating, making it difficult to determine why characters are emotionally attracted to each other.

As gentle romantic comedies go, Goldfish Memory has plenty of appeal. Though packed full of visual cliches, it has an generally intelligent script which doesn't always take the direction one might expect. Just don't expect anything too memorable.

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2009
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A group of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Dublin stumble in and out of relationships.
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Director: Elizabeth Gill

Writer: Elizabeth Gill

Starring: Sean Campion, Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Fiona Glascott, Peter Gaynor, Keith McErlean, Stuart Graham, Lise Hearns, Jean Butler

Year: 2003

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Ireland


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