Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rewind - Fish Tank *spoilers*

As a teenager, we all have dreams and aspirations that are usually cut down by the atmosphere surrounding us. Mia (Katie Jarvis) dreams of being a dancer. But there are a few things that make her road to dancing fame a little more rocky than others. First of all, her outlook on life is less than positive. She doesn't go to school, so she spends her time wandering around aimlessly causing trouble wherever she can find an opportunity to. When she gets to her home in a council estate, she is greeted by her equally potty-mouthed younger sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths) and her abrupt single mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing). Mia doesn't live in a happy world, but everything seems to change with the arrival of Joanne's new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender). Connor brings a change to the household and is more like a father to Mia and Tyler than Joanne is a mother to them.

I guess this makes Connor sound like a top bloke. For the most part, he does look like a top bloke. He takes his new family out for a trip and shows Mia how to catch fish and introduces her to his favourite song. While Joanne isn't interested in having the kids interfere with her relationship with Connor, Connor is more interested in the welfare of everyone in the family. He's exactly the sort of guy Mia needs in her life. Someone who will listen to her and support her dreams of becoming a dancer, even giving her a video camera to record her talent. But Connor, though he seems really nice, is actually the most evil person ever. Okay, so maybe I hate him all the more because I'm a similar age to Mia and I would be so angry if someone was an asshole like that to me, but really, he was a horrible person. First of all, you don't just have sex with your girlfriends daughter. Second of all, that sex scene was one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen. The things he said during the whole thing were just downright creepy. And third of all, once I actually found out what kind of man this Connor guy really is...well, let's just say, I threw things.

So that must set this movie up to be a pretty angry one, huh? Yes, it's angry. When you have a protagonist like Mia, who seems to be very angry with the world (with good reason), it doesn't make for the most happy experience. But at least it's realistic. It doesn't try to sugarcoat anything in fear of being politically incorrect, nor does it try to make anything any happier than it really is. It just captures a teenage girl with her fair share of insecurities, even though she appears confident on the outside, coming of age. Except this teenage girl doesn't get her dream guy or have her dreams come true. She gets a crappy mother who would rather drink than actually do her duty, a man who pretends to be a family man but really wrecks her life, and a dance audition which isn't actually her sort of thing. The ending, though, is actually quite nice. Mia may not get her dream, but she had an exit strategy, which was uplifting, in a way.

Anyway, I've talked enough about the actual story in this, which is very well-written and well-conceived. Writer-director Andrea Arnold does a good job with just her second feature film, also not trying to sugarcoat the movie through it's photography. The performances are all superb too. For one thing, I can not believe that this is Katie Jarvis' first acting job. She is superb. In fact, she's beyond superb. Especially in the scene where she finally breaks down and you see black mascara-infused tears running down her face. In that scene, she tells the story of many of us teenagers: our happiness dashed and our sadness wearing its way through the cover we put ourselves under every day. I really do hope that she takes more acting jobs in the future. As for Michael Fassbender...well. He can make you love him, and then completely turn the tables so you hate him. He's charming, but in that risky sort of way. From that moment I saw him walk in shirtless to make a cuppa I had a feeling there was this evil edge to him. Which I liked, at that moment, but at the end, I hated his character. The rest of the cast is really good, considering how ill-experienced they all are, but Jarvis and Fassbender stand out the most.

Fish Tank is exactly the type of arthouse realism flick that you could expect. It doesn't demand much, but it does achieve a lot. And, for once, a teenage girl as the lead role isn't an annoying know-it-all nor a lovelorn depressive. Which is refreshing, even though the movie itself is suffocating.

THE VERDICT: Andrea Arnold has created a perfectly realistic film about a teenager 'coming-of-age', without the usual constraints of the genre. First-timer Katie Jarvis and rising star Michael Fassbender turn in brilliant performances.

What I hoped for:

What I got:


  1. Glad you liked the film, Stevee!

    And it's good to know that someone else agrees with me on the sex scene, and that is near-impossible to write about the film without actually spoiling at least bits of it.

    As always, awesome review!

  2. Loved this review. The film is great and the preformances are as well.

  3. Cherokee - I did indeed! It is pretty impossible not to spoil bits of it, which I found out when I wrote the first sentence. Ah well, it's such a good film. Thanks!

    Lesya - Thanks! Totally agree :)

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