Greetings again from the darkness. In the not so distant past, folks who lived in small towns felt like there were no secrets – everyone in town knew each other and what they were up to. Thus, the proverbial “fishbowl” of the title. Of course, these days, people in towns and cities of all sizes voluntarily advertise their every waking moment on social media, making privacy and gossip relics of a bygone era. Brother-sister co-directors Alexa Kinigopoulos and Stephen Kinigopoulos (first feature for both), working with a script by writers Piero S Iberti, Maria Stratakis, and (co-director) Stephen Kinigopoulos serve up a taste of small town life in the good ‘ol days.
“In Bishop, you either talk or you’re talked about.” So says our narrator Belle over the slow-motion opening montage. She’s the oldest of three sisters who live with their father and attend a local Catholic school. All members of this family are broken in their own way, and it’s made clear this is due to the beloved mother/wife no longer being around (though initially we aren’t sure what happened). Belle (newcomer Belle Shickle) is the rebellious one, though not quite as self-assured as she likes to think. The middle girl, Rachel (Emily Peachey), is sensitive and stunned when her friend tells her they can’t hang out anymore – even for her birthday. The youngest, Jessa (newcomer Caroline Coleman) hasn’t spoken a word in the 4 months (actually 118 days) since mom has been gone. Their dad (longtime stuntman-actor Rick Kain) is a mess, bouncing from over-zealous religious fanatic to forsaking it altogether, and then back again.
We see the family faced with hostile reactions in the community, at school, and even at church, where the priest suggests it would be better for everyone if they stayed away. Dad is drawn in by Tele-Evangelist Ron Peltz (Bobby J Brown) who is hocking his $1000 “Save Me Now” program as protection from The Rapture, which he proclaims will arrive on September 29. Close to foreclosure on their house, the dad plops down the grand, and forces his daughters to go door-to-door trying to “save” the neighbors from the end of the world.
A countdown to the final days also includes the teenage sisters trying to find their way in this new world. We get flashbacks to when they were younger and family life with mom (Judith Hoag, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) was pleasant, despite dad’s alcoholism at the time. The three sisters cling to each other, but grow more concerned for their father and themselves. A particularly telling sequence has them defying their father and attending a costume party dressed as a devil, a nun, and a princess. It doesn’t end well, and sets up the finale.
The Kinigopoulos filmmakers give the movie a dreamy/surreal look and feel, and perhaps Jeff Nichols’ far superior 2011 TAKE SHELTER is the closest comparison. The four lead actors are fine (especially Ms. Shickle), but the background actors are exaggerated and distracting – perhaps this is done on purpose to help us understand what the family is going through. Pretty significant observations are offered up on small towns, parenting, church-goers, faith as a crutch, and alcoholism. It’s not an easy watch, and one that will probably not have mass appeal. It’s the type of movie that fits easily into the line-up of many film festivals, as that’s the environment where it is most likely to find appreciation.
Available VOD October 27, 2020