"Fish Tank" Movie Review (2010)

1/28/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

"Fish Tank"

Directed by Andrea Arnold, Written by Arnold, 123 minutes, Not Rated.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

Life for a teenager can be rough--so many changes, so much unbridled anger, resentment and depression. It's only made worse if you're in a trying financial situation, your friends have all deserted you, and you're trapped somewhere you cannot express yourself.

"Fish Tank," the sophomore film from British "Red Road" director Andrea Arnold, stars newcomer Katie Jarvis as such a youth, 15-year-old Mia, raised by a mother too drunk or apathetic to take care of her in a trashy neighborhood in Essex, England. She has no friends and doesn't go to school, but she gets through her day with her love of urban dancing. She escapes to an abandoned apartment in her complex, cranks up the volume, and just goes wild. It is her life.

One day her mother brings home a new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender of "Hunger" and "Inglourious Basterds"). He's not much like Mia's mother. He's charming, kind, and he actually respects Mia. He encourages her dancing and attempts to bring the family together. Things don't quite work out that way, however, especially once Mia and Connor's relationship becomes a little more than flirtatious.

This a really wonderful little film, a combination of your everyday coming-of-age feature and a stark and realistic depiction of lower-class life in England. Like its main character Mia, the film has a very tough and harsh exterior but truthfully has a lot of heart, and this especially becomes apparent in these little moments where Mia opens up and shows her true emotions. She's confused and full of rage, but she's just another kid, she doesn't know quite what she wants and the film follows her as she finally comes to term with her maturity.

The visuals are often great, with these picturesque locales and gorgeous sunsets captured in a very tight aspect ratio and closed-in framing (presumably to convey Mia's claustrophobic existence, as if she were in, appropriately, a fish tank). It's a pleasure for what is in most ways a minimal film to contain such beautiful photography.

Katie Jarvis carries the entire film, though. It's her first film role (ever, not just in a major film or anything--she was literally found by the producers in a train station and she was hired), but she does an extraordinary job and she captures the attitude and spirit of someone of Mia's age and standing very well. She's complemented fairly well by Michael Fassbender, who has that easy charm and coolness that made him so likable in his brief but crucial role in "Basterds" and to a lesser extent "300." The two have incredible chemistry, which makes their budding and highly inappropriate relationship feel a lot more real.

"Fish Tank" has proven to be quite a critical darling, both at Cannes Film Festival and upon its earlier release in the United Kingdom, and the acclaim is mostly well-deserved. It loses a bit of momentum in the last act, but it manages to pick itself back up by the end, and Mia's character is one you can really enjoy spending the whole film with, despite her occasionally cold nature. And, of course, any sucker for a coming-of-age drama will almost definitely enjoy this film. I think Jarvis has got a great career ahead of her, and I'm equally looking forward to what Andrea Arnold comes up with next.

Grade: B+

View the trailer for "Fish Tank" below.  What are your thoughts?

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  1. Hugo said...

    I have to watch this movie :)