As determinedly private as the Lampris regius for which it’s named, “Moonfish” is a tough-to-swallow and undernourishing course that fatally mistakes melodrama for insight. Distribs won’t exactly school around this cold fish, although some fests may nibble.
A fortnight before her summer 1999 nuptials, spoiled and headstrong party girl Maria Joao (Beatriz Batarda), hung over and thinking she might be pregnant, decides marriage isn’t for her. Over objections of politically ambitious dad (Luis Miguel Cintra) and with the encouragement of black sheep Uncle Nini (vet Francisco Rabal), Joao blows the family estate vowing to return a large boat and trailer to her fiancee in Spain. She enlists dad’s godson Gabriel (Marcello Urgeghe) to drive the rig across the southern Iberian plains, with a visit to estranged sibling Ze Maria (Ricardo Aibeo) in Cordoba sparking class and sexual shenanigans. Wooden playing is masked but not helped by complicated structure, called “quasi-traditional” by helmer Jose Alvaro Morais but in fact just tedious. Tech credits are glossy. Title comes from gay lovers’ quarrel/wordgame in Federico Garcia Lorca’s subversive, controversial 1930 play “El Publico,” performed sporadically and to no great effect here.