This is the story of Lala, the teenaged daughter of a rich Buenos Aires judge, and her lover Ailin, a maid in her family’s house. The pair plans to to run away together to Ailin’s family home in Paraguay near Lago Ypoa, but when Lala’s father is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Ailin takes the blame to protect her lover. What will happen to them now? Can they escape the law and live out their dreams?
The Fish Child is a magnificent movie, and the above summary really doesn’t do it justice. The synopsis says “[Director Lucía] Puenzo makes a conscious decision not to make the clandestine lesbian love story the central dilemma. Any stigma attached to the Lalaâ€™s sexual orientation is secondary to the obstacles imposed by Argentinaâ€™s sharp class divide.” And it’s true: nobody’s really shocked at the girls’ relationship, but Ailin has had to endure emotional and sexual abuse from Lala’s father, her own father, the police commissioner, not to mention being a poor member of a racial minority.
But the movie also speaks of the power of love and dreams to take us through those trials. Lala’s plans to escape with Ailin and build a little house by Lake Ypao may seem naive, but after they’re on the run it’s all they have. Maybe that’s enough; the movie leaves that an open question, and that’s okay.
This hasn’t been an easy review to write. A lot of scenes are pretty dark and disturbing, and the exact timeline of events was a bit hard to follow at first. The movie uses flashbacks a lot, and drops the viewers right in the middle of the story. Plus, this is a movie with layers, a lot of which I’m sure I haven’t gotten right now, but which will become clear on a second viewing.