Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Alex Camilleri
Writer: Alex Camilleri
Cast: Jesmark Scicluna, Michela Farrugia, David Scicluna
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/17/21
Opens: October 15, 2021
You don’t have to be a Maltese fisherman to understand that life is hard, but it helps. Just watch Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna). He’s a handsome dude, taking on the profession that filled the lives of his father and grandfather. But times are different now. Climate change! Because temperatures are rising, the fish aren’t biting. In fact they may not exist at all in years t come. It doesn’t help the industry that a black market operation, picking up out-of-season catches, is decimating the fish from the waters surrounding the three islands that make up Malta.
“Luzzu” (the word refers to the specific type of brightly painted fishing boat found only in Malta), is the kind of drama that Ken Loach would create if the British director of working-class films dealt with Maltese. Alex Camilleri in his freshman work as writer-director focuses principally on the manly but quiet Jesmark (played by real-life fisherman Jesmark Scicluna), who faces multiple challenges. His small infant needs special medical attention because of a failure to grow normally. His brightly painted luzzu needs work to stop a leak. The fish aren’t biting. He needs money and his girlfriend (Michela Farrugia) regularly puts him down for remaining in a profession that she knows he loves but is not supporting the family. (Aside: given Malta’s extremely strict laws against abortion, if they had another kid their relationship would likely end with Denise moving in with her critical mom).
Jesmark can get his head over water if he gives up the vocation he loves and instead takes an EU buyout, designed to limit the number of fishermen and thereby increase the supply of fish. This is the kind of decision that would not have to be faced had Malta not joined the EU, and in fact the loss of national sovereignty is the big factor in Britain’s exiting the European Union. Credit the mostly non-professional cast, particularly fisherman Jesmark Scicluna, for affording us in the U.S. to catch one of the rare films produced by the Malta film industry. Cinematographer Léo Lefèvre gives the entire picture a sense of place. Note especially the highly capitalistic market where fish are sold with the price set by auction. The brightly painted luzzus are reason enough to visit Malta, not generally on the European itinerary of American travelers and tourists.
95 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+