Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)

In an Essex town lives 15-year-old Mia. For Mia, life has very little worth or meaning. Excluded from school and prone to getting into fights with her fellow pikeys, her only salvation is in her dancing. Her mother is the worst kind of influence: a putty mouthed, smoking, drinking machine, and her younger sister has an arsenal of insults that would make Gordon Ramsay blush. 

The fraught dynamic in their unhappy household is further exacerbated with the arrival of Mia's mother's new fella, a charming, dashing fella named Connor. Before long, Connor's getting Mia to dance for him, putting her to bed and even taking her trousers off. All this points to a claustrophobic, queasy car crash that is simply waiting to happen.

Andrea Arnold's 2006 outing Red Road examined a woman who spent her life watching others trapped on CCTV. Here, it is Mia who feels like the one trapped, a "fish" in the eponymous Fish Tank. Her mundane life carries very little value, and it certainly isn't a pretty one: in the opening sequence alone, she headbutts a girl and an array of c-words are shouted out all over the place.

Like Red Road, however, Andrea Arnold draws beauty in the most unexpected situations. Mia adores dancing. At dancing, she is not unskilled, but could benefit from being less rigid, and letting go - an interesting allegory to her real life situation. Mia might not get on very well with humans, but she displays an uncharacteristic tenderness in the company of an aging, starving, horse. To Mia's younger sister, "I love you" is much harder to say than "I hate you", and thus, she will voice the latter, even though we know she means the opposite.

The relationship between Connor and Mia is as interesting a one as you're likely to see in a film this year. From little looks and actions exchanged between the two, it is more than apparent that both feel an attraction to each other. That it is so wrong on many levels (she is underage, he's dating her mother) seems to simply fuel their attraction.

However, there are other factors at work here: Mia, a feisty, plain girl, has "never had a boyfriend", so these feelings of lust she experiences are as confusing to her as they are intoxicating. Connor, too, seems to have some excess baggage of his own. The blurred line between their father/daughter and sexual relationship is more than a little reprehensible, but Arnold is canny to not make any judgement.

Katie Jarvis, who had never acted before and was selected for her role in this film because she was seen on an argument on the phone to her boyfriend, gives a terrifically authentic, raw, performance, along the same veins to David Bradley in Kes.

Michael Fassbender, who already excelled this year in Inglourious Basterds, is terrific as Connor, drawing us and Mia in with his studied flirtiness. As Mia's younger sister Tyler, Rebecca Griffiths offers some comic relief, even if it is often shocking - this young girl smokes, drinks and curses almost as much as her mother and sister do.

The finale is as unpredictable as it is heart-wrenching, and depicts Mia's torrent of emotions, from anger, to forgiveness, to acceptance at a shot at redemption. By no means easy to sit through, Fish Tank is still a beguiling, brilliantly acted and thoroughly rewarding British film. Hollywood couldn't make a film like Fish Tank if it tried.



Atul said...

Fish tank is a drama story of a 15 yrs girl , her life get changed when her mother brings her a new boy friend. I guess it will be a nice movie to watch, I am waiting for this one to release . I will download fish tank movie rather than watching it online or buying dvd's

Harry W said...

I LOVED this film.

Watch Movies Online said...

The main character of Mia Williams played by Katie Jarvis in this movie. I also download fish tank movie after i read some reviews about this movie and that was really a nice movie.

Movie Downloads said...

You r right. That was a nice movie.

viagra online said...

The plot of this movie is very moving. I like the story of Mia because I feel identify with her in the sense that I also love dancing. It's my passion.

Samir said...

Just finished watching it, and I can't decide if Mia really was a virgin when she slept with Connor or not?

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Juliette said...

Thanks for that, looks good but ending predictable - have to watch to see.

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