Apr 23, 2012

Fish Tank [2009]

Fish Tank is a 2009 British film written and produced by a brilliant individual called Andrea Arnold. It takes you through the life of Mia (Katie Jarvis), a 15 year old with a big mouth and a bad temper, who likes to dance. Her ordinary life changes when Connor (Michael Fassbender) comes into the picture, as he becomes her mother's boyfriend. The man, unknownly, changes their life, in a way, as he becomes a father figure and husband for a short period....and in Mia's case, maybe something more. I'll try to be spoiler free, as I usually tend to give out important details, although I don't do it intentionally.

I would describe this film to be...British. I don't know how to properly explain it, but it has that feeling, that look, and of course, the language that immediately reminds you of the UK. In some cases, I was actually put off by the extreme behavior and language of Mia, Tyler (her sister) and their mother- I couldn't help asking myself "Is this considered normal in some parts of London or UK? do 10 year-olds really smoke and swear worse than a 40 year old?"

Anyway, that was probably one of the very few weak points of Fish Tank. Besides that aspect, which might be just a thing of perspective and personal belief, everything else was quite remarkable and beautiful.

80% of the cinematography was just wonderful (the remaining 20% are negative just because of some shaky camera shots that annoyed me); I especially loved the slow motion moments, like the wind blowing the shirts away, or Mia being undressed. My favorite scene happens around the middle to the end of the movie, when Mia shows Michael Connor her audition dance- I loved the lighting, the music, her innocence and the performances. What happened after? well, that was a bit shocking- I thought he was just the father figure she needed in her life, but I guess he had different feelings for her, after all. That scene went up and down for me: at first, I liked the fact that she let her guard down and finally opened herself to Connor; when he made her move on her, I was shocked, but found the continuation to be quite erotic, which again, made me feel bad, because what was happening wasn't right (maybe that was just the Fassy effect, he is one sexy man).

Another thing I was surprised by were some the directions Andrea Arnold took when it came down to the script. First of all, although I do like Harry Treadway (he was great in Control, too), I think his storyline was pretty useless, except for, of course, the end- sometimes, unnecessary characters or actions in a movie bug me. Second of all, I was pretty shocked and didn't quite understand Mia's choice of action when she found out the truth about Connor- I know she was hurt and trying to get back him in way or another, but that? it was a rash decision that didn't got her anywhere. Yes, I know it's a normal reaction and that was the first thing she thought of doing, still...

But then again, that didn't put me off. I still think it is a wonderful coming-of-age movie; yes, it is more raw and extreme than most, but it has a similar effect on the audience and on the characters. The end is bittersweet, and I can't really say she has evolved or grown to be a better person, but at least she has changed and even matured, a little. What will happen to her? Is she going to go to school or get a proper job? I don't think so, but at least she got something out from this whole experience.

Overall, I though Fish Tank was a solid movie, with good performances by Fassbender and Jarvis and well- written and directed by Andrea Arnold [ Jury Prize winner in Cannes for FT in 2010, and she won an Oscar for her short film, Wasp, in 2003,  which I saw in a festival years ago (it has a very similar vibe to Fish Tank, you should check it out, maybe on youtube), and I will definitely watch Wuthering Heights soon, as well!]  The Brits have done it again!


  1. This is a film I discovered last year for my Cannes marathon and it's certainly one of my favorites. I was just into the story and Katie Jarvis' performance. It also introduced me to Andrea Arnold whose work I'm now interested in as I want to know more about her.

  2. @Steven: Yes, I like Andrea Arnold, too, I really want to see her version of Wuthering Heights!

  3. I first heard about Arnold when she made Red Road which I heard is even darker than this. Truthfully, I'm not that interested in checking this out, the story just doesn't appeal to me and the language, etc. will likely put me off. I might give Wuthering Heights a chance however, though I still need to see the Laurence Olivier version.

  4. Great review! I liked the film, though I thought it was only memorable because of the performances. I like how for you Connor was a father figure, it shows how different other people saw the storyline - for me Mia was attracted to him from the beginnning and hoped something will happen. "Fassy effect" - love the term!

  5. @ruth: I really want to see WH, too, I loved the book, and I heard the movie is visually stunning!
    @Sati: I saw the attraction, too, but I thought that underneath it all, she just wanted a father! And yes, the Fassy effect :D

  6. You had me at Michael Fassbender.
    I've heard the name of this film tossed around a couple of times, but never really read what it was about. I totally know what you mean about the film being 'British' - there's a certain quality to them, the gritty, 'real life' stories that get made in the U.K. Sounds like a film I'd enjoy - great write up!

  7. Great review! I really liked it just for being about a girl in a council estate for a change. I thought it was incredibly tense as well. I suspected there might not be something quite right about Fassy's character. He seemed a bit too good to be true. Kate Jarvis was great and she had a really great, strong character.

  8. I don't think I've seen a better film than Fish Tank since I saw it at a festival back in 2009. It's really just splendid and all the things that annoyed me the first time make more sense with time and rewatches. All the performances are so strong that you are willing to go with the film much further than one might.

    A word of caution to those getting interested in Wuthering Heights...it has very harsh language as well. In many ways it's the most shocking film from Arnold yet. I love her so dearly as a director though.

  9. FISH TANK! YES! Thanks you so much for reviewing this film and increasing the exposure for it, it is a criminally underseen work of art.

    I love everything about it. I don't know if you heard this, but Arnold basically saw Jarvis fighting in the street one day, and offered her the role on the spot. It's such an incredibly raw, moving performance.

    And Fassbender... jesus. What that man does with this performance is truly astonishing.

    Excellent review.

    It sounds like you enjoy Arnold's work, and if that's the case, check out Red Road. It's nuts.

  10. This film really got to me after awhile even though I think the whole subplot between her and that kid were kind of contrived. Still, amazing performances from everybody around, especially Fassbender who is as deceptive as ever here. Nice review.

  11. I hadn't really heard of this one. Great review. Thank you for mentioning it!

  12. @Ruth: Glad you liked it, I hope you will see it soon, it's pretty good!
    @Pete: Yeah, you're right, he was too good to be true! Great performance by Fassbender either way!
    @Bondo: Hello new commentator, nice to have you around! Thanks for the heads up for Wuthering Heights- swearing in a classic? really? but then again, I am not that surprised, Arnold likes to keep things real and gritty!
    @Alex: I heard about the Jarvis story, that is really cool....too bad she stopped acting after that (she got pregnant). Red Road you say? I will check it out, thanks!
    @Dan O: Thanks, I really liked Fassbender's performance, too!
    @FocusedFilmographer: No problem, I hope you get to see it soon!

  13. I've had this in my Netflix Instant queue for a while. It's one of the 1,001 movies, so I know I will see it eventually.

  14. @Chip: Glad to hear you will see it eventually:) I hope you will like it!