MOVIE REVIEW: FISH TANK (2009)

Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Cast: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing
Director: Andrea Arnold

Katie Jarvis as Mia in Fish Tank

It’s understandable why Fish Tank won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Festival and the 2010 BAFTA for Best Film. This movie had some stiff competition at the 2010 BAFTAs with ‘An Education’ and ‘Moon’ also listed as nominees, but Fish Tank prevailed because it is gritty and endearing.

Mia Williams (Jarvis) is an angry 15-year old who lives in a low-income London apartment with her single mother Joanne (Wareing) and her younger sister Tyler. Her home life is very dysfunctional- Joanne likes to throw raunchy parties while the girls are upstairs, and she largely leaves the girls to raise themselves; Tyler wants to be tough like her big sister so she drinks and smokes, but at heart she’s a really good kid; and Mia has no friends, rarely goes to school, and has a mean head butt technique that leaves a girl with a black eye. She also loves hip hop music and we get to see Mia’s b-girl moves throughout the movie.

Joanne brings home new live-in boyfriend Connor (Fassbender) and he sets in motion a series of events that make an impact in the lives of each female character- most noticeably, Mia. It’s very interesting to see how the ladies interact with him. The young Tyler seems him as a father figure, Joanne is romantically involved with him, and an immature Mia becomes discouraged once Connor teaches her that sex does not equal love.

I love the way Arnold directed this film because she used the streets of London as a great background. There’s no tailored studio sets used here and it makes you feel like you’re walking right next to Mia while she travels her neighborhood. Arnold also does a great job of showing the subtle feelings of love among the Williams family, even though on the surface it looks like they hate each other and they feel defeated by their hard life.

Fish Tank is an enjoyable movie with strong performances from Jarvis and Fassbender, and I definitely recommend it. I was especially impressed with Fassbender, because he perfectly combined creepiness, lust, deceit, friendliness, and thoughtfulness into one character. He clearly does some bad things in the movie, but I’m not sure if it’s right to call him a ‘villain’. If anyone has seen Fish Tank, I’d love to know what you thought about the movie!

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