Tribeca Film Festival: Jellyfish (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

There are movies that show so much violence and gore it makes you look away in disgust, on the verge of vomiting. Then, there are films that elicit the same reactions from the audience by hitting them with situations or emotions so hard that they can barely stand it. Jellyfish (2018) is the latter, having tons of scenes that make you want to scream as the lead character’s situation goes from bad to worse. One might think this is a criticism; however, the problems the film deals with are quite real and the main character is relatable, therefore earning our sympathy.

Jellyfish is a tough watch, but a great movie

Sarah Taylor (Liv Hill), at just fifteen-years-old, is basically raising her younger brother and sister, because her mother Karen (Sinead Matthews) is extremely sick. Sarah is working part-time at a local arcade in her hometown of Margate, and her parenting responsibilities are interfering with her school work. Sarah’s not above going a bit beyond to serve some of the arcade’s older male clientele if it means she can help feed her siblings. She is drowning in a system that seems to be oblivious to her situation, or at least doesn’t care enough to intervene.

Where this film will likely win or lose it’s audience is their reaction to Sarah’s lifeline. Her drama class requires that she pick something to showcase, and her frustrated teacher sees potential in the way she uses insults of her classmates. He suggests she try stand-up comedy and offers her a few classics to look up including Frankie Boyle. Boyle ends up being the only comic we see Sarah research, but she definitely takes to the idea. In essence, the film implies that art can be an escape as well as an outlet for our pain and frustration – a message that can be polarizing or feel a bit heavy-handed when delivered in another one of those artistic mediums the film is claiming to be an outlet. However, it worked perfectly for me.

Liv Hill gives such a great performance in this film that it is insane to think this is her first feature. She becomes Sarah and is able to bring such life to the character that every time things get worse it made audience members gasp, raise their hands in shock, and, at times, look away from the screen. Hill plays the role so naturally it almost feels like a documentary at times, which wouldn’t’ be hard to actually make, as the characters and situations in this film reflect much of reality.

Final thoughts…

Jellyfish is one of my favorite films from Tribeca 2018 this year. While I was only able to attend the festival for four days, I did see fourteen movies, and this is easily in the top three. Hill gave the best performance and is an actress I’ll be on the lookout for in the future. See this movie, and know that it will be tough. However, the way it ends was ultimately satisfying and poetic. Jellyfish earns the Must See rating. rating.

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