Published Feb 18, 2010The title, Fish Tank, refers to the sense of insular learned behaviour those segregated by class, and housing projects, are unable to escape, making them incapable of defending themselves against the unknown. Early on in this film, 15-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) and her young mother (Kierston Wareing) go on a fishing trip with mom's new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender), wherein he points out how easy it is to catch fish unfamiliar with human predators, then he kills the fish, only to leave it to rot.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out the implications of this scene but Andrea Arnold's convincing and unsettling follow-up to the similarly tense Red Road is about more than manipulation and exploitation. The film is concerned with delivering a frank and uncompromising look at teenaged female desires in an occasionally transgressive light.
Mia has a mild crush on her mother's new boyfriend, which is easy to act on, given that her mother is drunk and passed out most of the time. And while this budding romance is unsettling for a variety of reasons, a view from Mia's perspective and a lack of moral preaching give us a rare glimpse at youthful lust typically too incendiary for the cinematic treatment. We understand the motivations of a young woman lacking a father figure without having it spelled out for us.
This respect for audience intelligence, mixed with a convincing and natural social-realist aesthetic, keeps the film entirely convincing and invigorating throughout. Characters never awkwardly articulate expositional feelings, typically yelling the "C" word instead, letting us fill in the blanks of how they got to where they are. Uniformly affecting performances heighten this naturalistic sensibility, keeping progressive predictability at bay, even if the eventuality is glaringly obvious.
Much like Mia's dreams of hip-hop dancing success, it's clear she's going to find disappointment, given her lack of talent. But there is still uncertainty as to how and when the world will crush her. (Mongrel Media)