Fish Tank

Award winning coming-of age drama is a searing full frontal assault into a 15 year old girl’s difficult life. Or is that a difficult girl’s life? Her hardscrabble world in England is the subject here. From a working class background, she lives with her single mother and foul-mouthed younger sister in decaying government funded public housing. Mia is one tough cookie and has built an emotional wall around herself, not allowing anyone in and certainly not letting any emotions out. Her lone joy is dancing to the American hip hop of artists like Ja Rule and Nas. Then one day her mother’s new boyfriend, Connor, enters the picture and from then on, things will never be quite the same. The fish tank is her claustrophobic existence. Director Andrea Arnold forgoes traditional wide screen for a 4:3 aspect ratio, a virtually square frame that goes a long way in highlighting the anxiety within Mia’s depressed reality. This is pretty dreary stuff, but the portrait is honest. She’s a genuine character, albeit distant, that grows on you. Heretofore unknown actress Katie Jarvis is remarkably natural as the troubled teen. Granted, Mia is partially a victim of her surroundings. She responds admirably to positive encouragement. But she’s also consistently sour and it’s awkward rooting for her at times. The storyline is intent on always showing us the ugly side of her life. It’s raw and while I admire the realism and sincerity of human emotion on display, the script wallows a bit too much in despair. These characters are miserable. One late plot development is a deception so thorough, it feels as if even the viewer has been betrayed. She just can’t seem to catch a break. It ends on an unpleasant note and that reaction is what lingers after the film is over.

7 Responses to “Fish Tank”

  1. magnolia12883 Says:

    And what deception would that be? As for the rest: I continue to believe it to be one of 2010’s very best films. I got truly involved in these characters’ lives and whatever dourness there might be feels honest to me – not overly negative. I love this film!


    • *** SPOILERS ***

      *** SPOILERS ***

      *** SPOILERS ***

      The movie was impeccably directed and acted. What kept it from being a 4 or 5 star movie for me was the lack of someone I could root for. I already mentioned how brilliant Katie Jarvis as Mia was. But I really didn’t like her as a person, so when bad things happened to her, I didn’t care. Connor was memorably acted by Michael Fassbender as well. He appears charming. Finally through all of the misery it seems that he just might be a bright spot in her miserable existence. The movie needed a character like him. What ultimately happens is suggested several times throughout the film and it was subtle. But he ultimately acts in a way that’s so reprehensible that it crossed the line for me. She’s a 15 year old girl!!!!


  2. YLOWBSTARDreturns Says:

    Great performances, gritty direction, and really involving. Overall one of the best films from 2010.

    I need the Criterion Blu-Ray release.


  3. Its hard for me to like a movie, when everyone is so negative. The acting was very real. But the movie just didn’t connect with me enough.


  4. magnolia12883 Says:

    Mark, you seem to be suggesting that you need a film to have a single good or likable person for it to be a likable film. Katie is perhaps not as likable as she could be because of her roots and the situation she’s being brought up in – which brings out the worst in any teenager. Connor is an opportunist more than a pedophile, but still, he’s reprehensible and I don’t believe the film intended for him to be likable. Too bleak? Okay. But I felt it wrung true 🙂


    • A film need not have a likable character to be great. Most films have at least one, however. If not, the enjoyment will rely on context. I don’t have to like Hitler to appreciate a film about him. However, if the screenwriter presents him as a hero, I’ll take exception to it.


  5. magnolia12883 Says:



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