Fish Tank (2009)
Anchored by a couple of tremendous performances from its two outstanding leads and an honest, gripping script. Fish Tank may not be the typical coming-of-age story we’re all used to. Nonetheless, it’s a more authentic, albeit darker take on growth and the vulnerability that encompasses it. Although its characters run about gritty neighbourhoods and struggle to find their place. Writer and director Andrea Arnold has a firm hold on Fish Tank and its seemingly reckless rawness is more of a guided chaos. Fish Tank is a highly vivid film with socio-political motivations and realism. More than a few will likely be turned off by its stark, brash, and paced simplicity. However, any blemishes one is inevitably going to stumble upon are easily rubbed out by infallible performances from the entire cast and visually harsh, yet stunning realities.
Mia (Jarvis) is an angry and isolated 15-year-old. She lives in East London with her mother and younger sister. Mia is an aspiring hip-hop dancer and will do anything to achieve her dream. Seemingly, Mia had a falling out with one of her close friends and now antagonizes her and other kids her age. Walking home one day, Mia spots a weak and weary horse tethered in a parking lot. When Mia tries to free the horse, she is attacked by two young men, but eventually saved by another. Mia’s mother’s new boyfriend Connor (Fassbender) begins hanging around the house more frequently. As he becomes closer to the family, the more Mia becomes infatuated with him. What follows is an obscure tale about growing up and the consequences of youth.
Be forewarned that watching Fish Tank does come with a few challenges. Every so often there is a scene dealing with relatively subtle disturbances and unsettling content. At moments, it isn’t even the material that gets under your skin. The portrayals by Fish Tank’s ensemble are so real, it’s easy to forget that you’re watching a film. Regardless, without these bold, at times unpleasant sequences, Fish Tank’s unflinching gaze into adolescence would be rendered useless. Besides, the reward heavily outweighs any disgust one might feel while experiencing Arnold’s Fish Tank. When agreeing to succumb to the uninhibited, effervescence of youth, you’re accepting both ends of the spectrum, you can’t have the good without the bad. In the end, Fish Tank is the winner of the Cannes jury prize for a reason.
If you’re unable to find value in Arnold’s story of a broken family struggling to find an identity together and individually. At least take solace in the immaculate performances, you’ll find it very easy. Featuring Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing, and newcomer Katie Jarvis. Fish Tank has the investment of the collective to match its undying spirit and emotional complexity. Wareing, despite being hardly used, manages to steal every shot she is in. Jarvis, who makes her cinematic debut in Fish Tank, is astounding. Capturing the angst, defencelessness, and infatuation that swims through youthful veins. Jarvis shows remarkable range and persistence for someone with little-to-no experience and undoubtedly gives the best performance in the film.
The only other performance worth discussing, besides the stunningly accurate and haunting portrayal by Katie Jarvis belongs to Michael Fassbender. Since Fish Tank, he has absolutely skyrocketed to stardom with high-profile performances in such films as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, Steve McQueen’s Shame, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Yet, oddly enough, Fish Tank contains one of Fassbender’s best, most polarizing performances and still remains sparsely seen. Throughout Fish Tank, it becomes apparent that one can’t quite get a read on his character, this isn’t by accident. Fassbender beautifully exudes the questionable ambitions and lulling safety needed to lure in the wounded and vulnerable. Ultimately, Fassbender continually reminds us that he always had the talent and still does. Earning his status of one the most sought after actors in the business currently and why he is one of my favourite actors of all time.
Sinister, endearing, and utterly entrancing. Fish Tank is a unique story about one girl’s struggle to cope with growing up.
Fish Tank: 8.5 out of 10.