Film review: Feast of the Seven Fishes a.k.a. A Christmas Feast (2019), written and directed by Robert Tinnell
td;dr: Understated and possibly underrated.
Based on the writer-director’s own 2005 graphic novel, we follow a day in the life of a few people in a small American town just before Christmas 1983.
Tony (Skyler Gisondo) is a budding artist who has just been accepted to an art school, but maybe it’s better the young man does a business degree instead so he can take over his dad’s (Paul Ben-Victor) shop in the future? His cousin Angelo (Andrew Schulz) is going on a date with his girlfriend Sarah (Jessica Darrow) that night, and apparently she’s bringing a friend, so maybe Tony can tag along?
The friend in question is Beth (Madison Iseman), a Protestant young woman currently home from her Ivy League education. She’s upset with her rich Ivy League boyfriend Prentice (Allen Williamson) who selfishly decided to go skiing over the holidays. Beth’s uptight mother (Lisa Velten Smith) is trying to patch things up between them because Prentice is excellent (i.e. rich) son-in-law material.
Turns out Tony is interested in Beth as a person, not as a future trophy wife, and she ends up getting an invitation to celebrate Christmas Eve with Tony’s family. Tony’s big, loud, Italian Catholic family: his mother (Jean Zarzour), his grandmother (Lynn Cohen), brother (Cameron Rostami) and uncles Carmine (Ray Abruzzo) and Frankie (Joe Pantoliano). The latter may or may not have, ahh, certain “connections”.
We also get to meet Katie (Addison Timlin), Tony’s troubled ex, and Juke (Josh Helman), a sweet but somewhat awkward young man who is a good friend to many.
I’m not normally into “a day in the life” style films, because they tend to just feel meandering and don’t really go anywhere. Like, “what’s the plot? Oh, there isn’t one, it’s just a slice of life.” But it felt like this film did go somewhere despite the slice of life format.
Tony is sweet, and he really cares about people. His Nonnie was oftentimes hilarious, and how can you not enjoy the two uncles? Whether they’re preparing food or beating people up to set an example, it’s hard to argue with them.
The eponymous Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition, and it was fun to see what goes into the celebrations in this particular family. Like Christmas films should be, this leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling, but it’s not cloyingly sweet. It’s a little bittersweet, in some ways, but it’s a feelgood film. I wonder what will happen to Tony. Will he become a full time artist? What will happen when Beth goes back to college? I guess we’ll never know – and you know what? That’s fine. We don’t need a sequel to every single film ever made. I’m just saying if there was to be a sequel, I wouldn’t mind going back to spend another Christmas with this family.
4 out of 5 sleepovers in the shed.