Fish Tank (2009)

May 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank

Written and Directed by Andrea Arnold

The is a fearless, unconventional, highly engrossing film with wonderful performances by the entire cast, using minimalist dialogue and effective employment of handheld camera work to give it a much more visceral, POV feel. Fish Tank turns the standard film trop of a struggle to rise above poverty slightly on its ear, giving the sub-genre an energy boost, the likes of which we haven’t seen in ages.

Fish Tank is a visual film with a story told through body language and locations, not dialogue or simplified action sequences. It unfolds like an optical illusion, in which at first nothing is clear but we are given pieces of a puzzle purely through visual context and nothing more. It’s quite ingenious film making. The story unfolds to reveal an angry, confused teenage girl named Mia (played by Katie Jarvis in a pitch-perfect performance) who has no friends, a promiscuous absentee mother, a foul mouthed younger sister, lives in the projects and hates her life. Hip-hop dancing is a popular past time in her area amongst the teen girls and she is no different. She works tirelessly to perfect her own unique dance routines in the hopes of one day being discovered.

Her mother gets a new boyfriend, played with perfectly dark charm by Michael Fassbender, a quickly rising international talent. Fassbender’s character is a well put together, friendly guy who just might be Mia’s ticket out. As the story unfolds, were shown how their relationship develops, for better or worse, and we find out if Mia successfully takes control of her own destiny or falls victim to the trappings and limitations of her upbringing.

It’s a wonderfully nuanced story with expert pacing and engrossing imagery and a plot that keeps you guessing. The direction of the film is flawless. This is as close as it comes nowadays, outside of maybe a film like Winters Bone, to feeling intimately real while telling fictional narrative. Its a tour-de-force for everyone involved and a marvel to behold.

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