Francesca Scorsese, arguably more famous for her Tik Tok account than her father, continues her transition from the phone screen to the big screen. With this her second short film as director debuting at this year’s Tribeca Festival.
Fish Out Of Water tells the story of Lexi, a struggling young mom, who has an opportunity to reconnect with her estranged family after she’s approached by her now-sober father with news of her mother’s failing health.
The initial set up draws parallels with Sean Baker’s The Florida Project. Both feature female protagonists living in motels where they keep their children in the bathroom while men pay them a visit for undisclosed but implied reasons.
While Hailey in The Florida Project found some grounding in her life thanks to a positive paternal figure in Willem Dafoe’s character, here Lexi (Jade Pettyjohn) has here world upended by the appearance of her father.
The film is anchored by the strong performance Scorsese draws out of her lead actress Jade Pettyjohn. She effectively portrays a young woman suffering from arrested development. Forced into caring for her mother due to her father’s alcoholism, she lost her own childhood and now as an adult with a child of her own, struggles to take care of herself. Now standing at a crossroads where she is drawn back to her past through necessity but unsure of it will prove cathartic or open herself up to further pain.
Despite the short film’s truncated runtime, the script by Scorsese, Savannah Braswell and Megan Lulu Taylor, and the subsequent performances, provides a deep level of characterisation and a real sense of this family’s history. Both through what is said and what goes unsaid. Thus allowing this household to work through years of trauma in just a few minutes.
The moment where the titular metaphor crystallises might prove too on the nose for some, Lexi must choose between a life unknown or return to the safety of of the nest, but Pettyjohn sells it well.
Scorsese has a real command over the narrative, character and shot composition. The result is an impactful short film that promises a bright future for this emerging filmmaker. Scorsese is certainly no fish out of water, proving she deserves to be swimming in this pond called Hollywood.
Fish Out Of Water had its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival
Director: Francesca Scorsese
Stars: Jade Pettyjohn, Steve Witting, Welker White, Legend Lolli
Runtime: 26 minutes