22 March 2010

Review: "Fish Tank"

Fish Tank was not released in North America until February 2010, though there was much mention of the film during the fall Oscar campaigning season. The film is directed by Andrea Arnold, who won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short in 2005 for her film Wasp. Her first feature length film, Red Road (2006) is the first of a planned trilogy by first-time directors, conceived by Danish experimental director Lars von Trier. Fish Tank premiered at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival in May 2009, where it won the Jury Prize. While it was not in contention for any awards in North American, Fish Tank won the 2010 BAFTA award for Outstanding British Film, beating such highly regarded films as An Education and In The Loop. The film's trailer and promotion make the film seem like a British Step Up, when in reality it has more similarities to London to Brighton. The film's star, Katie Jarvis, was reportedly asked to audition for the film after one of the film's casting agents saw her having a heater argument with a boyfriend at a train station. The film belongs to Katie Jarvis, and Fish Tank is her highly emotional roller coaster ride. In her very first acting role it is amazing that this young girl acts with so much humility and maturity.

Mia Williams (Jarvis) is a fifteen year-old girl who lives in a public housing apartment with her single-mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and her young sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths) in Essex. Her mother is often drunk, and Mia spends time fighting with girls in town and has a verbally abusive relationship with her sister. We see Mia make several attempts to rescue a malnourished horse, eventually angering its owners. She is saved by a boy named Billy (Harry Treadaway) and the two become friends. At home her mother brings home her newest boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender). He becomes a real father figure to the two girls, and Mia's mood is heightened by his presence. He encourages her dancing and helps her with the necessary preparations for an audition. The sexual tension between Mia and Connor builds because Mia is often walking around the house in her underwear and caught her mother having sex with him. One night Mia and Connor go too far and this leads to some unpleasant truths, leading Mia to question her future and make a life changing decision.

Unfortunately, Fish Tank is similar to a lot of British films that I have seen. The bleak cinematography and lower-class characters seems to be a staple of British cinema. works because it focuses so tightly on Mia. As viewers we are emotionally invested in her future and Katie Jarvis plays the part so well that we remain affected long after the film ends. The film does not give away its secrets easily, and many questions remain unanswered. I love when a film leaves you guessing and speculating. Fish Tank is not as remarkable as I had expected, but it features a convincing performance by Katie Jarvis. After reading about the film I found that Katie Jarvis, at only 18 years of age, lived an impoverished life much like her character and left home at a young age. She has given birth to a child and it seems that escaping this life will be even harder for it. It is reminiscent of the film Precious, and how many wrongly assumed that Gabourey Sidibe had a childhood like her character.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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