Fishtank is the story of Mia (Katie Jarvis); a 15-year old living on an estate in Barking. Behind closed doors she aspires of being a dancer and practices religiously, away from prying eyes, afraid to show any weakness to even her family. When her mother's new boyfriend, the charming Connor (Michael Fassbender) moves in and supports her in her dancing, she starts her coming of age and the lines between a friendship and her feelings start to blur.
I thought this film was really something special, completely different from the usual fare and had me captivated from beginnning to end. The relationship between Mia and Connor is electric, as he plays the supporting friend fantastically and you are not sure if it is completely one-sided or if there is mutual chemistry. Fishtank is well shot and illustrates the harshness of London council estates and what one must become in order to survive and persevere. More importantly, it shows Mia burning desire to escape her life through her aspirations to dance at any cost.
Katie Jarvis is an excellent actress for someone of her age and shows a full set of emotions, with both angry and sensitive moments, you really start to feel for her in her trials and tribulations. The film is more of a snapshot of her life than a biography; as it begins and ends rather abruptly and nothing is really left resolved at the end, despite this it is a very powerful film and will leave you thinking about some of the issues broached well after the credits have rolled. Highly recommended!!
on 25 April 2015
Tracksuits, dogs, strong cider and bad sound systems. You know the kind of place this film is set, it might be somewhere nearby that you regularly avoid. There are no Shameless cliché's here though, but an entrancing insight into a young girls life as she tries to tip toe through the minefield of chaotic adult lives that surround her. Mia (Jarvis) lives with her young mother, who hasn't tired of partying yet, and her younger sister in a toxic state of constant conflict. When her mothers new boyfriend (Fassbender) appears on the scene, the monotony appears to break and Mia starts to glimpse a different perspective on her life and future.
This is a hyper-real film with the raw Katie Jarvis as the armoured but vulnerable girl in the lead role pitched perfectly against Michael Fassbender in one of his pre-Hollywood performances. Directorially, Shane Meadows would be the obvious analogy as best in British realist drama, but as a film it's less tailored which only adds to its ability to absorb the viewer into the grubbily intriguing plot.
One of my favourite films for lots of reasons, but not for those of delicate sensibilities; expect the basest (and in my view, funniest) types of language in insult trading, and some terribly uncomfortable scenes rising from the total lack of boundaries of the main characters. All in all though an amazing film, worth a watch, although perhaps on your own with a strong drink.
While this isn't a great movie, it's nonetheless a rather interesting - and well-acted - film. The story revolves around a teenage girl who seeks to make sense of, and engage with, the world around her. She resides in an urban slum, and occupies a flat with her single mother and young sister. Depressed with life, this teenage girl dreams of making something of herself through dance - which she practices regularly. Her life is turned upside down by the man who starts dating her mother ... And, as the story unfolds, this becomes a coming-of-age tale involving sexual awakenings. Throughout, the story is rather disheartening - and it presents a gritty and realistic portrayal of contemporary life.
In addition to the first-rate acting, the film is well-made. While it's a rather low budget affair, it's clear that the director has taken time and effort to offer viewers a nicely crafted movie. Yet the film is somewhat dull and drawn-out, and doesn't quite live up to its potential as a critique of modern social life. While I'm glad I watched it, this isn't a film I'll be watching again. Nonetheless, I do recommend this movie - so long as you are interested in the type of story I've outlined.
on 14 February 2015
I saw Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" the day after seeing "Cedar Rapids," and it restored my faith in movie-making. This is a very good movie, one in which the casting, the acting, the photography, the music, and the narrative all work together very satisfyingly to show you something humanly interesting -- "to make you see," as Conrad said a good story should do. What we see here is an unexceptional life, and the story has its generic elements ("coming of age story," let's say), but the young woman, Mia (Katie Jarvis), whose story it is, is revealed with great clarity and great compassion by a film-maker who understands how particular family circumstances, education (or lack of it), as well as economic and social contexts can all work, along with an individual's personal aspirations at a particular stage of development to make her the person that she is -- and the movie is just sentimental (or open-hearted) enough to let us nourish the hope that as her circumstances and self-awareness change she may not always be under the kinds of pressures that she is under at fifteen, her age in the movie.
The story is pretty simple -- Mia lives with her single mother, Joanne (Kierston Wareing), and younger sister, Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths) in the Mardyke Estate in Essex, across the Thames estuary from London, in a low-rent apartment, about which I will only say that the decor and the surroundings tell you almost all you need to know, and Arnold's camera takes its time in capturing it throughout the movie. It isn't a slum by any means, but we are a long way here from Mike Leigh's middle-class (even lower middle-class) settings. Joanne must be in her thirties, but she seems to be trying to keep up a youthful look -- and she has the faded prettiness of some southern rural beauties in some American movies. She doesn't seem to work -- is she on public assistance? -- and spends a lot of time dancing with herself in a kind of alcohol-induced haze. Is it her dancing that makes Mia aspire to be a dancer, albeit to a hip-hop beat? But that IS Mia's aspiration, although it becomes clear very early that she's not that good -- no "Billy Elliott" uplift in this movie, I'm afraid. Into the lives of this family comes Connor (Michael Fassbender), her mother's latest boyfriend, and Mia is of an age where Connor's masculine attractiveness and his sexual relation with her mother (it's a small apartment) are unavoidably brought to her consciousness. Some fairly predictable things follow that I won't go into to avoid "spoilers," but what isn't so predictable is what's revealed about the characters of all concerned as the narrative develops -- so there is a sense in which we do have the familiar elements of a coming-of-age story, but made fresh by the attention to and respect for the individual qualities of the characters.
Mia is certainly "neglected," from any social-work perspective, but she isn't treated badly in an obvious way, and her feistiness and the specificity that Katie Jarvis brings to the character make it clear that she isn't a standard victim. She has compassion, and finds an outlet for it -- the white horse: enough said -- and that compassion makes understandable some elements of the movie's later sections that could otherwise have been either sentimentalized or sensationalized. It's amazing that Jarvis -- like Agata Trzebuchowska in Pavel Pawlikowski's "Ida" -- had no acting experience prior to this movie, but where Trzebuchowska couldn't bring Ida to life, Jarvis succeeds marvelously. The "big name" in the movie is Fassbender, and his Connor is very fine here. For all his flaws, and they are many, he's not really a sexual predator and he's not altogether undomestic. He's not even sleazy, but there are a mixture of elements in the characterization of Connor, as there are in Jarvis's representation of Mia, that are made to seem totally plausibly human. Arnold's sense of these characters and the actors' abilities to execute her vision of them are large parts of what makes this film so compelling. Add to that, the eye for this particular urban landscape, the touch of the rural environs, and the hip-hop soundtrack, and it all adds up to a very rewarding, if sometimes uncomfortable, experience.
on 22 February 2010
Deservedly presented with a BAFTA award (Feb 2010) this movie, a follow-up to the awesome 'Red Road', is probably one of the best I have ever seen detailing what it's like today growing up in a sink estate. The cinematic structure, the scene setting and the acting - not least Katie Jarvis's spunky, vulnerable lead - is what cinema should be about, not America's air-brushed, short-attention-span hokum. If you care about British cinema, and are prepared to grit your teeth and watch the injustices we put today's deprived youth through rather than turn the other way, get hold of this film and tell your friends about it.
on 27 September 2009
Friendless and unloved Mia (Jarvis) dreams of becoming a dancer and when her mum's new boyfriend arrives on the scene, everything changes for the teenager.
Fish tank is an exceptional artistic creation, based on the purity of Andrea Arnold's script and appreciative direction whilst a debuting Katie Jarvis excels as the troubled isolated teenager, and what a feature this is.
British cinema is some of the most dramatic and flinching cinema in the world. From Trainspotting to This is England there are always issues of realism and points to convey and with this 2009 appraised release we see more hard drama.
The opening sequence follows Mia around the streets, slurring and shouting abuse at anyone in her radar and the coarse dialogue and minimal amount of sympathy is staggering. As if you had been slapped, this will instantly startle you into realizing the type of environment and lifestyle Mia is living in. The language will give Pulp Fiction a run for its money.
Added as an attempt to justify the rural scene of Britain, Arnold gets it spot on as everything flows with little adjustment required. Everything is as it should be because everything has been so carefully planned, in particular the character development which will have many shedding a tear or two.
Katie Jarvis' cold and unappreciative style is spot on for the protagonist and as the film goes through hard fights with families and spending time isolated in a deserted flat, we see the emotional desire of Mia. The ambition of becoming a dancer is exceptionally well produced, owing to the fact that the background is effectively established. The hard family life Mia is living inspires her to find a way out and her dancing is her motive to break free. This really does work up a treat with twists turns, ups and downs and a staggering climax that adds extra spice to the picture.
At only 15 the central character certainly has a controversial agenda set for her. From sleeping with random strangers to drinking anything dangerous, Mia seems unfazed. Seeing her younger sister drinking beer with her mother in the next room will have mouths dropping.
Thanks to this straight forward no messing attitude the plot can move forward and tell the audience of what real life entails and the cultural state we are living in at the moment.
Some British films go out of their way to preach, such as This is England and Brassed off and whilst that isn't a bad quality, the enriching style of this film makes it flow and add extra drama continuously.
The scene setting shots are exquisite, as if made from a Skins episode without the teen angst. The scene in the car is excellent and not to forget this film boasts an exceptional soundtrack that fits the mood as well as 2007's Hallam Foe.
on 25 January 2010
I came out of the cinema after watching Fish Tank just completely floored by the film. It grabs you by the throat. This is what it is to live on the margins in Britain in the 21st century.
Yet Fish Tank escapes the usual social realism for which British film is often praised because it focuses so clearly on Mia. It is as much about what it is to be a teenager and a growing woman as it is about poverty. Director Andrea Arnold is comfortable with social and sexual ambiguities that you just don't see in Ken Loach and this propels the film into greatness.
I quite liked Arnold's first film Red Road, which showed she had an amazing visual flair but was let down by the poor characterisation and some clumsy plotting (paticularly the soapy end). Fish Tank is a huge step forward and I can't wait for Arnold's next film. The only film I can compare it too is Pawlikowski's excellent My Summer of Love. See both!
Ok, I know I'm prone to the odd bit of hyperbole but this has to be the best British film for a generation!
It all sounds so unpromising: a bleak subject matter; some decidedly unsympathetic characters; a fairly obvious storyline. And yet it is such a well crafted film - both realistically portrayed and quite deliberately a piece of art at the same time.
Katie Jarvis is exceptional as Mia, an emotionally blunted 15 year old who finds herself strangely drawn to her bitch of a mother's new boyfriend, Connor (the always excellent Michael Fassbender) - a man who seems to be too good to be true (and is).
I loved the unrelentingly coarse dialogue, the exceptional but unintrusive soundtrack, the way that the 'Step Up' cliche is mercilessly torn apart, the shocking amoralism (particularly where the kid sister smokes and drinks with the mother), the sense of ever-present sexual tension and life as a series of confrontations rather than meaningful relationships.
But I also appreciated the direction: the consciously intimate camera work, the fragments of beauty (such as the focussing on the sister's pictures of cats), the use of metaphor (the horse, the fishing trip) and the value placed on communication through gesture and silence rather than excessive dialogue.
And mostly I appreciated the story - or more correctly the way the story was allowed to unfold. As I said from the beginning you have a fairly good idea how this tale will unfold and, by and large, you are expecting what happens to occur. The skill of Arnold is to involve you in the lives of her protagonists so that - despite yourself - you care about them. You share the hopes of Mia and her mum that this time it might just work out, that all of the characters will find some sort of happiness - and for large parts of the film you are allowed to believe that your pessimistic expectations might be thwarted too. So that when it all does go wrong, when things go crazily out of control, you share some of Mia's pain and bewilderment and empathise - if not sympathise - with the drastic course of action she eventually takes.
All in all, another brilliant film by Arnold. A real slice of British life - and art - too.
on 20 April 2010
'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!
on 29 October 2016
Good film. social drama. very urban about a dysfunctional girl and her home life. Not for children, a low budget film that had some heart and soul instead of numbing insanity.Kate Jarvis does well as a first time actress, Michael fassbender is good as the wandering love interest. Not fantastic, but worth a watch because these films can be terrible but this one is good. A good film I missed from 5 years back.