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Leonidas and the Fish [Alexander Machlouzarides-Shalit, Cyprus, 2020]

Leonidas and the Fish is a touching snapshot into the life of a young boy, rising early every morning to reach the nearby beach at sunrise and fish as the dawn spills light over the gently rippling sea. Following Leonidas on his morning routine, the centrality of water to the narrative and its importance for the coastal community are immediately evident. From the opening trickle of the watering can as his mother tends to their garden, to the subtle – yet constant – splash and rumble of the sea, which underscores the first half of the film.

Effectively contrasting locations, the setting transitions from an idyllic natural environment – where boy and fishing rod are dwarfed by the vegetation, rocky shoreline and vast sea – to the stark, practical designs of business places and simple home interiors. Sharing his name with the Spartan king famous for the leading of the 300 at the Battle of Thermopylae, the part of our eponymous protagonist is well acted and propels the plot through various encounters with a small pool of supporting characters. There is a strong sense of community on his journey to the water, as he is greeted by a local business owner, recognised by another beach user and eagerly assisted by other fishermen to bring in his catch. It is his next course of action which defines the film, albeit not without a little underlying irony.

With a gentle and original accompanying score that raises tempo in parallel with our hero’s experiences, this simple tale is beautifully shot and achieves a lot with minimal dialogue. It is well-paced in charting the development and journey of Leonidas within the space of one morning, with simple and smooth editing. A self-contained portrait of life in Cyprus, we are left to reflect on Leonidas’ choices and imagine what the next daybreak will bring him.


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