Unpredictable Waters in this Fish Tank

Posted: October 1, 2009 by Nigel in Uncategorized
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Employing a similar intimate, non-fussy approach that marked her first feature, Red Road, director Andrea Arnold elevates that approach to new emotional heights in Fish Tank, a film set amid the crumbling suburbs of Essex, England.

still photo from Fish Tank from www.filmofilia.com

still photo from Fish Tank from http://www.filmofilia.com

Newcomer Katie Jarvis plays Mia, a foul-mouthed 15 year-old with aspirations to become a hip-hop dancer despite her dire predicaments at home. Mia is the type to start fights with girls on the street, simply to amuse herself and let off her pent up aggression. When her mother brings home an attractive new boyfriend, Mia starts to exhibit sexual tendencies toward men, opening up a whole can of worms her mother is not fit and ready to cope with.


Red Road was a slow burn of a movie with a corker of an ending. Fish Tank is similar in that  Arnold keeps the viewer engaged without revealing what she’s really getting at. But while Red Road established itself as a sexually charged mystery from the outset, Fish Tank’s seemingly random narrative causes the surprises to sneak up unexpected. The detours in Arnold’s tale are in no way manipulative but feel like a natural progression of Mia’s dangerous tendencies.

In Mia, Arnold and Jarvis have created a character that elicits compassion even what at her most self-destructive. She is vulnerable when it comes to first love but is too proud to show it. Arnold makes a clear case that her surroundings have made Mia who she is. But throughout the course of her journey, Mia grows and begins to see the bigger picture. Arnold conveys this in a remarkably unsentimental way that speaks volumes to her fierce command as a director. Fish Tank does not beg for tears through clichés, it elicits them through a frank observation at real life.

–Nigel Smith

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