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by Alan French
Sundance 2023: ‘La Pecera (The Fishbowl)’ Rides the Wave of Isel Rodríguez’s Excellence
Cancer wreaks havoc on the human body, but it’s toll on the mind can often be just as harmful. While the person fighting the disease struggles with their mortality, their friends and family must rely on faith or medicine to pull them through. Even when that’s the case, the danger is often too upsetting to confront. director Glorimar Marrero Sánchez confronts these issues in her new film La Pecera (The Fishbowl). On the back of Isel Rodríguez‘s excellent performance, the character study provides a unique depth When Noelia (Rodríguez) discovers her cancer has returned, she finds herself looking for non-traditional remedies. Her frustrations with her boyfriend continue to mount, causing her to leave and stay with her Mother (Magali Carrasquillo). She also reconnects with an old flame (Modesto Lacén), kicking off an affair as they attempt to spend their time together.
A still from La Pecera (The Fishbowl) by Glorimar Marrero Sanchez, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
La Pecera (The Fishbowl) plays with denial, not solely related to Noelia’s cancer. The incoming Hurricane Irma rages in the ocean, and while it appears landfall is imminent, Noelia cannot be bothered. While some characters show alarm at the incoming storm, others ignore the long-standing effects of the Navy’s exploitation of the island. Sánchez used the storm not-so-subtly stands in for many issues facing the woman. It also serves as an important reminder that denial does not prevent the danger or destruction. Ignoring her cancer will not save Noelia.
Unfortunately, this does come off a little convoluted at times. While it is understandable that a character may act irrationally when they are facing imminent death, Noelia becomes borderline sociopathic. In fact, many of the characters let her get away with actively endangering herself. La Pecera (The Fishbowl) 0then frames those who care about her well-being as clingy or overprotective.
There’s an argument to be had that Noelia feels stifled in her life and acts out accordingly. Given the name of the film, she struggles with eyes constantly on her, yet her actions make it impossible for those who care about her to let her live freely. While she may feel oppressed, she also lies about basic aspects of her health and is surprised when others lose trust in her. However, the film instead views the acts of support and caring from her friends and family as an anchor dragging her down. A still from La Pecera (The Fishbowl) by Glorimar Marrero Sanchez, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Sánchez crafts some unique visuals with cinematographer Pedro Juan López (credited as PJ López). Upon arriving on the island, Rodríguez hangs out the car window in a precarious situation, which certainly becomes a metaphor as the narrative continues. The image of blood spewing from her body while she bathes and god’s eye shots of her in bathtubs (both inside and out) sear into your brain. Plenty is going on visually in La Pecera (The Fishbowl) to keep us engaged, which pushes the film up a level.
With a strong lead performance, La Pecera (The Fishbowl) succeeds. However, a few framing adjustments in the narrative might have helped us embrace the nuance in Noelia’s situation. We do not need our characters to be likable for the film to succeed, and letting other characters let her act without restriction was a step too far. It makes her look reckless, and the ones who let her feel “free” as uncaring. Still, there’s plenty to like in La Pecera (The Fishbowl) and Sánchez seems to have a promising future.