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Fish Tank

September 27, 2013

Fish Tank (2009)
Director: Andrea Arnold
Actors: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing

Fish-Tank.jpg (320×178)

Synopsis: Mia (Katie Jarvis) is a fifteen year-old living with her mum and younger sister in an impoverished Essex council estate. Between schools, she wiles away her time getting drunk, arguing with her mum, and entertaining vague dreams of being a dancer. When her mum brings home a handsome stranger, Conor (Michael Fassbender), Mia’s world changes dramatically….

Review: In terms of social analysis, Fish Tank is highly acute, and could quite easily be an informative tool in schools and social think-tank agencies for insight into the moral impoverishment of a certain type of British teenager. Director Andrea Arnold absolutely nails the gnarled world that main character Mia grows up in – by-product of a neglectful and largely useless mother, a social strata awash in booze and deprived of the educational and fiscal means of social betterment, and a culture subtly corroded by television (Mia’s only ‘inspirations’ are the rap and urban dance videos she sees on the TV which is perennially on in her flat). Arguably, Arnold’s greatest success is in realising this inner world of Mia, and how she’s trapped by the invisible ‘fish tank’ of those pre-mentioned restrictive circumstances. The sequences where Mia embarks on her private dance routines thematise that restriction, and it’s heartbreaking because she’s spilling out her soul, anger and yearnings in her moves, but in essence, she’s not especially good because she’s had no formal coaching, nor encouragement from her mother, nor does she possess the necessary confidence and ‘softness’ to do proper justice to her aspirations.

It’s in Fish Tank‘s dramaturgy and stylistics that I’m marginally more agnostic. Some of the scenes seem a little prescriptive and overly schematised (the girl abduction, and the completely incorrect ‘new start’ ending), and the film is often bathed in an unconvincing arthouse-lite glow (e.g. Mia’s clichéd empathy for the chained white horse), although the handheld cameras do lend us this sense that we are viewing events from the perspective of Mia’s ever-growing, evermore frustrated world view. (September 2013)

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