Fish Tank - Review




Directed by Andrea Arnold

Starring Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender and Harry Treadaway

After the first opening minutes of Fish Tank I candidly noted to my friend that "this is low-budget" and not in a fuzzy indie-art-house way. In a realistically bleak and brutal sort of way. I think, all too often, that I use modern cinema as a form of escapism - wanting to see plush interiors, iconic landscapes and inhumanely gorgeous actors. And that's all well and good sometimes - but it makes watching real life honest cinema a touch depressing by comparison to prefect big budget blockbusters.

Still, the truth portrayed by Fish Tank is indeed a strength although initially remarked as a weakness by our viewing party. It's a stark look at life in a London estate. Where London Town meets rural Essex countryside and the sea. Our story's protagonist is 15 year old Mia who lives in a rundown high rise flat with her mother and little sister. She's at her happiest drinking cider, playing truant from school and street dancing in an abandoned flat. As viewers, we are eased into this way of life until her mother's new boyfriend Connor (a topless Fassbender) arrives on the scene and seemingly mesmerises Mia. Connor takes the family on days out, gets rounds in at the pub and appears to have special affections for Mia as well as her mother. The tension created between the pair in a string of essentially innocent moments builds relentlessly until the third act.

Fish Tank all seems rather hopeless but there is enough faint optimism to make for a poignant ending. This is a film that lingers in the mind well after the credits roll - whether that's to do with the excellent character acting or the all round freshness of this type of movie, it's remarkably unhurried, the plot is not sign posted, the dialogue is sparse and infrequent. There is a genuine feel that you are aboard the car trips with normal silences and natural exchanges. And that's it, Fish Tank feels natural - it isn't fake, stilted, over acted or insincere. It's realistic and unfolds slowly like life but that means that at times, it's a little boring.

What I will say is that while I can praise the film for these aspects, I can also criticise precisely that. It's not exactly entertaining and it's a bit grim and slow paced quite frankly but is that because I am used to glossy fantastical and expensive movies? But it's certainly bold, unrestrained and a no holds barred portrait of a segment of Britain which cannot be ignored. I'm not so sure what to make of Fish Tank but I feel as though the director probably achieved everything they set out to do. And it's better than Ill Mannors and Wild Bill which sadly get a bit strained and bloated towards the end. Fish Tank, conversely, knows when to stop in its stripped back picture of one girl growing up in a very real setting.

Rating: 6

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