"Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes"
**1/2 (two and a half stars)
It's tragic when you see a director over-extending. Writer/director Francesca Gregorini brings her first film since 2009's "Tanner Hall" to Sundance, and the result is an over-written psychological drama that tends to be more pretentious than lyrical and more overwrought than haunting. Emanuel is a sarcastic but well-meaning teen (Kaya Scodelario) who befriends a new mother (Jessica Biel) that just moved in next door. But upon meeting her, Emanuel discovers a horrifying secret: The mother apparently is traumatized into believing that a doll is really her baby daughter. Biel is good and so is Scodelario, and the situation is laced with some darkly-comic moments. But Gregorini fails to develop their relationship in a more convincing manner, and by the end we're hard-pressed to believe that the normally-acerbic Emanuel would suddenly become more sensitive. But you do have to applaud Gregorini for just getting "Emanuel" made. As Biel noted after the film's premiere Friday, there are so few good roles for women, and it's refreshing just to see a movie in which women talk to other women.
"Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes" screens again: Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Peery's Egyptian theater in Ogden; Sunday at 9:15 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Library Theatre, Salt Lake City; Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the Library Center Theatre, Park City; Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. at the Eccles Theatre, Park City, and Friday at 8:30 a.m. at The MARC, Park City