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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and unassailable!, 20 April 2010
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This review is from: Fish Tank [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
'Fish Tank' is by far the best film of 2009. Cinematically, it is a masterpiece. The tough world of a council estate in Essex is conveyed powerfully and unsentimentally. Arnold depicts the harsh conditions that predominantly white working-class people live under truthfully, without subordinating her art to the usual tired left-wing critiques of poverty. She shows us behaviour which would normally be perceived as aberrant - such as primary school children smoking - without passing judgement. Life is harsh in Arnold's film, but there is plenty of it. 'Fish Tank' portrays society's most desperate and ignored and their means of escape - young Mia (Katie Jarvis) wants to be a dancer; her neurotic mother (Kierston Wareing) finds escape through sex and alcohol, as does her mother's handsome and mysterious boyfriend (Michael Fassbender).

There is no Ken Loach style sting-in-the-tail in this film. Arnold is not out to make explicit political points, but one thing she does go out to show is the reality behind the lives of the so called 'underclass', people whom society demonises and slaps ASBOs on in the hope that they will disappear into a corner. The council estate and its surrounding area, the docklands around Tilbury, are skilfully rendered by beautiful, atmospheric camerawork - there are moments we see shots of the moon and a solitary tree blowing in the wind, subtly contrasting nature with the manmade dull grey concrete tower blocks and estate that Mia and all the other residents inhabit.

On the DVD extras for her previous feature film 'Red Road', Arnold commented on how amidst the poverty there is life and vibrancy to the people who live on council estates. This was not sentimental glamorisation or cheap sympathy on her part for Britain's poor, but an affirmation and assertion that there is life burning intensely in these places. Her observations expose how shamefully ignorant we are to pass judgement on our fellow living, breathing citizens and not see their dreams as valuable to society - that is far more antisocial and deleterious to society than an eight-year old child puffing on a cigarette.

A brilliant, life affirming film that is at times shocking and unsettling, yet restores the soul. This is not typical coming-of-age cinema fare Don't miss this film: life is too short!
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Location: London, N22

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