Fish Tank – Review

Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Fish Tank, IFC Films

Live, love and give as good as you get.

Fish Tank (2009) directed by Andrea Arnold and stars Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Bastards, Hunger), Rebecca Griffiths, and Harry Treadaway, in a film about troubled 15 year old Mia, who struggles with growing up in the London projects with her mom and younger sister.

Foul-mouthed, unappreciative, and unloved Mia (Jarvis) doesn’t act her 15 years.  She’s dropped out of school and is weeks away from being referred to a special needs institution, and she’s meanwhile trapped in day after day of aimless and lonely wandering.  She finds trouble frequently—slurring at a hostile group of girls with little more than the ability to gyrate to add to their dreams of becoming dancers, and attempting to free a horse seemingly being starved by Pikies.  She comes home to an Essex estate to her smart mouthed younger sister and her emotionally displaced, alcoholic mother.   Mia’s only outlet for happiness is in hip-hop dancing in an empty apartment overlooking the London slums.

One day, Mia’s mother brings home a new boyfriend.  Connor (Fassbender) is a witty, compassionate, and the only person in Mia’s life who pays her any attention. Connor’s actions towards Mia are nothing more than fatherly–when Mia cut her ankle in a stream, her mother cringes at the site of Mia’s blood–it was Connor who immediately used his sock as a temporary bandage, and hoisted her onto his back. He also shares his musical tastes with Mia, and encourages her to fulfill her dream of being a dancer. He even lends her his video camera so that she can record, and submit, an audition video. When she is invited to a more formal audition, she only tells Connor about it. It becomes increasingly obvious (for those viewers who haven’t already been charmed by Fassbender’s grin, or noticed the slowed motion when Mia breathes his cologne before his date with her mother) that Mia is enamored. One can hardly blame her—Connor is hardly much older than her and he is likely the only person in her life who has treated her with any kindness.

Katie Jarvis as 'Mia,' Fish Tank, IFC Films

Fish Tank – Though she uses his favorite song to frame a more sensual dance routine than she is accustomed, he seems continually to see her only as a little sister, at best.  As the audition date draws near, Mia’s relationship with Connor begins to wobble.  Since Connor’s actions toward Mia is nothing more than that of a concerned parent, she begins to lash out at him–and says that her new school (a referrals unit) will be good for her. Frustrated, she lashes out some more, until an exasperated Connor arrives one night with her mother, who is in a drunken stupor.

It was a night that would change the family’s relationship forever.

Until watching Fish Tank, I was unfamiliar with the gritty British cultural movement “kitchen sink realism,” which is used to describe an angry hero who’s gritty dramatized life questions social and political controversy.  The film does touch on social class issues–Connor being from a middle-class background, in an intimate relationship with Mia’s considerably lower-class mother. The story unravels somewhat predictably but not without poignancy and devastation, as the main character, Mia, experiences it. Much of the story is told from Mia’s perspective.

Writer, director Andrea Arnold insisted that the film be shot in sequence, so the actors did not know what their characters would experience until each day of filming.  Their emotions, therefore, come across the screen vividly and without pretense–armed with a talented cast and crew, notably cinematographer Robbie Ryan.

Fish Tank (2009) is moving and stunning enough for any girl who may have experienced adolescent angst and unrequited adulation.  We all may have felt like fish trapped behind glass, swimming and splashing wildly only to choke on our first breath of freedom.

The movie review Fish Tank is a guest post by Lisa Shoreland who is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she’s been researching average student scholarships as well as athletic scholarships. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.

Fish Tank
  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 3 stars
  • Good

  • Fish Tank
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  • Last modified: 2012-09-02

Review Summary:

Everything changes for 15-year-old Mia when her mum brings home a new boyfriend.

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