Fish Tank

 

Director: Andrea Arnold

2009

Fish Tank is most definitely a “Brit Flick” in that it is grimy, tough, harsh and set against the backdrop of an inner city estate during an economically difficult climate. I enjoy “Brit Flicks”, I really do, but there is always this feeling of depression that pervades them. There is also more often than not an undercurrent of violence, and Fish Tank is no different with Mia head butting a girl breaking her nose! “Brit Flicks” are definitely not the shiny, happy, life’s all peaches and cream of Hollywood films but then that’s what sets this style of filmmaking apart. And yet despite the grim tone I always come away from watching Fish Tank grateful for the life I have, it could be far worse!

I totally agree with Jay McRoy when he says Fish Tank is “beautifully lit and photographed by gifted cinematographer Robbie Ryan, Arnold’s intense coming-of-age story has garnered praise from audiences and film critics alike.” (936, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) It may be set against a somewhat run-down estate but Ryan has found the beauty in the everyday. Arnold uses lots of still and quiet moments throughout the film which allows Ryan’s beautiful cinematography to shine through. And it really is pretty intense moving at a surprisingly fast pace (but then that may be because I watched this after having suffered through the tediousness that is the classic Gone with the Wind)

“When Mia’s mother (Kierston Wareing) brings home a new boyfriend named Connor (Michael Fassbender) Mia’s home becomes increasingly claustrophobic and her tumultuous life grows even more complicated. Mia’s relationship with Connor, which is initially one of longing for a father figure, begins to dominate the film.” (936) Kate Jarvis is excellent as the teenage Mia, struggling to grow up and find who she is amongst this harsh and very real landscape while at the same time trying to understand her connection and increasing attraction to Connor. Mia’s quite a lonesome character forever trying to navigate her way through life without any help from others. I love the way she escapes through dance. Her reaction to the revelation of Connor’s real life is raw and visceral.

The appearance of Michael Fassbender as Connor ratchets up the tension in the film. Michael Fassbender gives a charming and compelling performance as Connor – a fore-runner to the career he is steadily building for himself. There is something electric and magnetic about his performance. Even though he has quite a questionable character and indeed relationship with Mia you can’t help but like him. I actually find the relationship that develops between Mia and Connor by far the most interesting one in the entire film.

 

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