Review by Sean Boelman
Taking its name from the Italian Christmas Eve tradition, Feast of the Seven Fishes is a new holiday romantic comedy sure to put viewers in the holiday spirit this season. Thanks to a witty script and great performances all-around from its talented ensemble, this is a charming and heartfelt indie comedy to add to the required holiday viewing list.
The film tells the story of a large family preparing for their Christmas Eve celebration as they look back at their past and think about their future. Although this is a relatively simple set-up, there is something charming about the basic arc, hence why it is such a common one. Most people can relate to the hectic nature of the holiday season, and as a result, it is easy to feel endeared to these characters.
However, unlike most Christmas movies, this movie is not overly reliant on a large ensemble. Even though the film focuses on a family getting together, there is a very clear protagonist and all of the rest of the characters function only to support his arc. A significant part of why this movie works so well is that the attachment that the viewer will form to the protagonist is so strong.
As with any holiday-centric film, there is a very clear and direct message to be found in the script. That said, even though there isn’t much subtlety regarding what the movie has to say about love, writer-director Robert Tinnell handles it in a way such that the themes don’t feel overly saccharine, unlike many other romances set during the season.
Tinnell also paces his film in a way that is very enjoyable to watch. Since all of the actors in the ensemble have such great chemistry together, the lines have a natural bounciness to them that lends a tremendous narrative momentum to the movie. While the film is never outright hilarious, it is consistently funny.
It is great to see Skyler Gisondo (Booksmart) get a lead role after having been the funniest part of many of the movies in which he has acted in the past. This film also gives him room to prove his dramatic chops, as there are plenty of strong emotionally-driven moments to be found in the script as well. The supporting cast of the movie, especially Madison Iseman and Joe Pantoliano, are very good, but Gisondo frequently maintains the spotlight.
On a technical level, the film is pretty strong, as Tinnell does a very good job of setting the atmosphere of the movie. The film is set in the early 1980’s, and as such, much of the movie feels very retro. This old-school energy that radiates throughout the film is frequently infectious, fueling it with the nostalgia that any generation will feel for their own childhood holiday experiences.
As the holiday surprise of the year, Feast of the Seven Fishes is a charming little indie comedy full of the Christmas spirit. Hopefully this movie will catch on with those who see it this year and gain word-of-mouth to make its way into the rotation of essential Christmas films.
Feast of the Seven Fishes is now available on VOD.