Fish Tank

It’s easy to see why comparisons are being made to Ken Loach, as with her last film ‘Red Road’ and now with ‘Fish Tank’ Andrea Arnold has captured a slice of Britain that is not always pleasant but is there none the less. Bleak as chips it tells the story of Mia (Katie Jarvis) a fifteen year old wannabe dancer whose life with her single mum on the estate holds very little hope of a bright future. Things are bad when we join the story, already kicked out of school, drinking heavily and getting into chav fights Mia’s only escape is dancing in an abandoned flat that overlooks the towns grey tower blocks. This then is essentially her fish tank of the title. Trapped in a sweary and violent cycle things go from bad to worse when her mum brings home new boyfriend Conner (Fassbender) and slowly things play out, some in ways you can see a mile off others not so. But Arnold has a way of showing hidden details without you realising, like going out of focus on Mia to highlight an abandoned sofa on waste ground in the background before refocusing in on our lead, it is subtle but has powerful affects. Also the way she uses light like the red central section and the sunlight washed dawn dance. Famously Arnold saw Jarvis arguing at a train station and chose her to play Mia, not being trained as an actor matters not but it’s hard to see where the real Jarvis ends and Mia begins. Still her performance, she is almost always on screen, is superb and it’s this that holds together the impending thread of the story. Ultimately very few people can portray exactly what life is like in certain areas of Britain today and this realism is to Arnold’s credit, it’s brave and honest to have the liberal use of the C-word so freely in the opening twenty minutes without it coming across as crass or for shock value. If Arnold can continue to make films this strong and draw performances out of her actors like she has here and yet retain her own unique developing style then she will be one of the best directors working in Britain today.

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