Jellyfish – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

Jellyfish really does push the idea that being a first-time anything should heighten expectations than lower them.

Director(s) James Gardner
Screenplay By James Gardner, Simon Lord
Date Released Still Doing Festival Circuit
Genre(s) Drama, Coming of Age
Noted Actors
Sarah Liv Hill
Karen Sinead Matthews
Mr. Hale Cyril Nri


At 15, Sarah finds herself taking care of her younger siblings, her mom, going to school, going to work, wanking people off for extra cash, and trying to stay sane. Something which is becoming increasingly hard as her teacher, Mr. Hale, begins to invest and push her and her mom, Karen, it becoming more and more of a liability. One that Sarah increasingly tires of because, in order to keep enough money coming in she needs her mom, who clearly has a legit disorder, to get some help and do something. Not just so the rent gets paid but so social services doesn’t come back around – again.

But, when it rains it pours and when her mom lets her down, it leads to a cascading s*** storm which leaves you to wonder who did Sarah ever get and maintain the strength to survive.

Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments

  • The town the film takes place in is Margate.
  • Trigger Warning: There is a disturbing scene towards the end which could trigger traumatic memories or feelings.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. What happened to Sarah’s father?


Liv Hill

One of the most beautiful things about seeing indie films, especially that are on the film festival circuit, is learning about actresses like Liv Hill. Someone who did the film as a means to get out of class but ends up putting on a masterful performance where, as noted below, nearly everything is thrown at her. She is a parent to her twin younger siblings, seemingly handles everything but the rent, and the list goes on and on. Something which, in her tone, movement, and voice, Hill exudes this teen being sick and tired of what is normal for her life.

To the point that when she lashes out, you can’t help but feel for her because, cracking jokes on her peers, that is her only outlet. That is her cathartic release for yelling at her mom doesn’t do anything because her mom is nearly inept. Yelling at the twins would mean them experiencing some level of trauma as she has gone through, which she doesn’t want, and while, as shown in the Q&A below, there is the question of her going to someone, what good would that do?

All of which Hill gives you as if she has been working for years as a child actress who has taken part, supporting or leading, in serious roles like this. Thus making her definitely one to watch.

On The Fence

It Isn’t As Much About Her Coping Through Standup As Sold

When first posted to the Tribeca Film Festival’s schedule, with the original summary still viewable on its IMDB page, it seemed that we would get this little turd whose teacher channeled her animosity into comedy. That’s not what we get and it is for better and for worse. For better since, while you may not get much in the way of comedic moments, it really allows us to see Liv Hill’s dramatic chops.

But the for worse part comes in the form of it making Mr. Hale, her drama teacher, seem underused. Which I say because, when it comes to raw talent like Hill’s, seeing it challenged and refined by an experienced actor like Nri is such a treat. Especially as they go back and forth and you can see, with him being one of the few men in her life she can trust and feels safe around, you want to see more of that. Making it so, when you realize him helping her with standup is giving her a list of names and not helping her craft an act, at all, it’s a bit saddening.

For if there is one thing that Mr. Hale provides which makes him so essential to this film is that he deals with her as a kid. Not as a carer, who is overwhelmed, but simply a kid with a chip on her shoulder and one nasty mouth. Thus providing a consistent reminder that, no matter how mature and reliable Sarah may seem, at the end of the day she does that to survive and because, outside of Mr. Hale’s eyes, no one allows her to just be some kid anymore.

The Way Everything and The Kitchen Sink Is Thrown At Sarah

In the Q&A, I couldn’t help but ask why the things Sarah went through were chosen, especially in terms of how the ending was crafted. For some may honestly feel that, as Sarah goes through dealing with her mom, what is essentially sex work, and the possibility of being homeless, she has more than enough to deal with. Yet, as noted, when it rains it pours and it really makes you wonder when she is going to finally bottom out?

This question will especially be strong for those who want to see things change for the better and get either a happy or hopeful ending. Something which, depending how much of an optimist you are, you may or may not believe is delivered.

Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Though it doesn’t deliver on one of the original selling points, at least for me, Hill’s performance, as she plays off Nri and Matthews, makes it so it isn’t that big of a deal. A missed opportunity, but despite the newcomer status of the actress, and this being James Gardner’s first feature film, they deliver in ways that compensate greatly. Hence the positive label for Hill truly gave the type of performance which will push you to check her IMDB page just to see what is next for her. As well as what is up next for James Gardner as well.

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Post-Screening Q&A

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