Fish Tank

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The sea was angry that day, my friends

Swimming in Circles

I remember a couple of months ago when the Young Victoria opened, and I actually stopped myself from seeing the film with the thought: "Do I really need to see another frivolous movie about the pomp and circumstance of the idle rich? The lives of millionaires and billionaires are so removed from daily struggles of most of the other human beings on this planet as to have an much inport on our daily lives as the weather patterns on Pluto. I'll skip this one.

Thankfully, I didn't skip Fish Tank. The story is bleak, since the chances of a happy ending are extremely remote and preordained. If 15 year old Mia she looks around her, she can see the people who've lived all their lives in this housing project, great clusters of society warehoused in run-down apartments with almost no opportunities for better future. The Architectural style of her building is actually called a Fish tank.

Mia's voyage, is a voyage that's repeated endlessly that very few survive. The lack of options and traps of poverty eventually trip them up and beat them down. One has to scream over the din to get heard, One has to lash out physically to get some eye contact and attention. Her mother, Kierston Wareing---The high point of her week is the Saturday night blow out. (Unrecognizable from the upwardly mobile huckster she played in Kenny Loach's "It's a Free world".)

There's a little bit of poetry splashed about; Her solo dancing; Her future dreams are metaphorically pinned to a dark horse, or rather a sway-backed nag heading to the glue factory. Her theme song: A remake of California dreaming. When she says goodbye to her mother in a dance.

Ms Arnold is a welcome addition to working class cinema and joins those estimable ranks of the Brothers Dardenne (the Hand held Camera) and Kenny Loach. Although, I think Ms Arnold is going to quickly branch off and explore sexual politics; particularly between male bounders (those Hound dogs who only live for the prowl) and the women seduced by them. The character, Connor (Michael Fassbender) is as charming as the devil, prowling by the fish tank to scoop up a few guppies here and there and using sex to spice up his monotone suburbian life.

Fish tank ~ 9/10

The sea was angry that day, my friends
Y'know I watched the entire movie, thinking that is guy is so familiar, where have I seen him from?

Same with Inglorious Basterds, where have I seen this guy from?

He's such a chameleom in his roles. I think Fassbender is poised to become insanely huge: a major movie star in the next couple of years. All he really needs is one mainstream film role to do it.

And yes, I saw him in Hunger, which I loved---both his role and the film.

I reviewed Fish Tank recently in THIS thread. Guess I'll reprint it here as well...

Fish Tank
Andrea Arnold, UK

Writer/director Andrea Arnold won an Oscar for her short film "Wasp" (2004), about a young mother in Dartford, Kent, with questionable parenting skills who tries to go on one date with an old flame in a local bar. The almost unbearable tension leading up to relief in the form of a perfectly-delivered punch-line was very effective. Her feature debut, Red Road (2006), was not only one of the best films I saw that year but one of my favorites in the entire decade. It was dark and disturbing, cleverly constructed, and had a lead character I simply hadn't seen before. Just when I thought I knew where the narrative was going, Arnold subverted the expectation, but not just for the sake of doing so, it fit her overall story wonderfully. As far as milieu and social class, you could say she is of the Ken Loach social-realist school, except that Red Road was more poetic and strange with a tone that was distinctly her.

Because of all that plus its notices at Cannes and awards at BAFTA and elsewhere, I was really looking forward to her follow-up, Fish Tank. Perhaps I had unrealistic expectations, but while a solid effort, for my taste this is half a step backward. Here we have a coming-of-age tale centered on Mia (Katie Jarvis), a fifteen-year-old living in an Essex housing project with her Mother (Rebecca Griffiths) and younger Sister (Kierston Wareing). Mia is rebellious, probably a tic more than most, and has gotten into so much trouble at school that she is in danger of having the social worker visit for further options. She likes to dance to hip hop music in her small room, but her other outlets for her frustration and boredom are far less constructive. Into her life appears Connor (Michael Fassbender), a new man in her Mom's romantic life. Judging by his manner, speech and clothes he's a slightly higher social class than Mia's family, with a job as a manager at a warehouse. Through the relationship with this older man, Mia begins to have a level of self-confidence she's never enjoyed and can even start to imagine realizing some of her dreams beyond getting through the current day.

From there you can likely predict where the relationship and her life lessons are heading. And that's the biggest problem with Fish Tank. It is well made and Katie Jarvis, who had never acted professionally before this movie, is good and Fassbender is very strong. Michael Fassbender's career has really exploded in the past couple years, with the amazing performance as the hunger-striking prisoner Bobby Sands at the center of Steve McQueen's Hunger (2008), then as the covert British soldier who makes one costly dialectic slip-up in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Fish Tank continues his meteoric rise, with a character who is both charming and contemptible. But overall Fish Tank is too familiar, too pat, even with the good performances, minus the kind of weird poetry and constant guessing in Red Road, and winds up as sort of Ken Loach-lite. Other than being less in direct comparison to her first film, Fish Tank also suffers in that it was released the same year as Lone Scherfig's An Education, which despite being about a different social class in a different era hits many of the same narrative notes...and that one is a better film.

Not a bad movie, at all, but I hope Andrea Arnold gets back to more of what I loved in Red Road. That her next scheduled project is yet another remake of Wuthering Heights is not especially heartening, though her voice coupled with that Gothic costume pic may yield something interesting?

"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Agreed, Holden, aside from An Education being better -- I liked this more.

I enjoyed it, but I expected much, much more. Not much else to say that you didn't already mention....

A terrific debut performance by Katie Jarvis, good production and direction and a well-crafted story make this a worthwhile, mature and engrossing film.I liked it !

At first I wasn't sure what to make of this movie. Having watched "Red Road" by Andrea Arnold, I needed to watch Fishtank. It wasn't quite as good as Red Road but somehow it had something that mesmerised me. The movie tells of a 15 year old girl living in a rather socially deprived area of Britain who is passionate about dancing. Her mother is a drunk and brings home a new boyfriend one day.

Right from the start there are scenes that are hard to take. These scenes felt quite real for me, maybe thanks to the Director or the acting. There is not much of a storyline other than that the girl gets involved with her mother's boyfriend and everything gets even worse after that.

I thought that Michael Fassbender's performance was brilliant. He seems to be star in the making.

This movie makes difficult watching because of the harshness of the lives that are depicted here.
Defeat is not bitter unless you swallow it.