Lunch & a Movie Series :: Fish Tank
Fish Tank (2009)
Written and Directed by Andrea Arnold
Watched on Netflix
About the Movie: Fish Tank is an award winning British film written and directed by Andrea Arnold, starring newcomer Katie Jarvis, as well as Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing and Harry Treadaway.
Brief Synopsis: Mia Williams (Katie Jarvis) is a volatile and socially isolated 15-year-old living on an East London council estate with her young, single Mother, Joanne (Kierston Wareing), and her younger sister, Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths). Mia is antagonistic toward everyone around her, her Mother and sister, her friends, and herself. She is a loner, appearing to have had a falling out with her best friend. The film starts with Mia provoking said friend and getting into a physical fight with another girl who is with Mia’s ex-friend.
Mia often sneaks into an abandoned flat in the building she lives in to practice hip-hop dancing and drink.
Near the estate, Mia comes across a skinny, tethered horse in a trailer camp. She tries to free it twice, the second time being caught, taunted, and assaulted by two young men, the horse’s owners. A third young man, Billy (Harry Treadaway), the brother of the other two, appears more sympathetic, trying to explain that the horse is old and ill, and attempting to offer Mia kindness.
Enter into Mia’s world her Mother, Joanne’s, new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender). He is a charming and handsome Irishman. He drives them all out of town on a day-trip to the countryside, seemingly intent on making a good impression on Joanne’s daughters. He introduces them to his favorite song, Bobby Womack’s cover of California Dreamin’, and teaches Mia how to catch a fish. He asks her to show him her dance moves, the ones he caught a quick glimpse of when he caught her off-guard in Joanne’s kitchen after he spent the night with Joanne for the first time. Mia is abrupt with him, but she complies with all that he asks, and is noticably intrigued by him.
Connor seems to fill a space in Mia that she’s longed for, sometimes parental, and other times something else entirely. He lets her use his video camera to record her dancing for an upcoming concert, and she opens up to him in spits and spurts. Upon witnessing Connor and her Mother having sex she pulls back from him, becoming abrupt and verbally volatile, but then warms up to him anew when they are alone.
Things happen in the third act that change everything for Mia. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is full of suspense, heartbreak, and action. There are moments here that are so intimate that it almost feels uncomfortable, and intruding, to watch. Not everything is neatly tied up in the end, but there are some resolutions and a feeling of hope for Mia. A near perfect ending, in my opinion.
“Early morning introductions”
Why I chose it: Initially it was due to my friend’s post about the film on her tumblr, and also because I am a huge fan of Michael Fassbender, and find him an interesting and compelling actor (and yes, quite easy on the eyes). I’m also a big fan of stories with a female lead, especially ones by female writer/directors.
My thoughts in three sentences: A realistic, sometimes bleak, always authentic feeling, coming-of-age story about a girl who is both isolated and angry at the world, and who is taking action to change her world in both positive and negative ways. The film is full of imperfect, flawed characters who have moments of beauty and kindness, and moments of ugliness and cruelty, at all times crafted in a way that does not seem like a role or a character or a film, but real people living their lives. The performances are stunning, the film intimate and claustrophobic and thought-provoking and never easily resolved – a movie I have not been able to shake off, or cease thinking about, since I watched it.
Best: Mia, in all her sharp edges and soft bits, her bravery and intuitive nature, her mistakes and missteps, her anger and her isolation and her unlikability, and her empathy and hope among the bleak reality of her life. Connor, as well, whose attractiveness and appeal were not missed on me, even if I didn’t want to feel them. I love how the world we see unfold is through Mia’s eyes and perceptions, how that means we don’t always see truths (if there is such a thing) or complete characters in Connor, Joanna, Billy and Tyler, because Mia doesn’t see the complete characters, which was so real and relatable because none of us do in life, especially when we are young.
Worst: Honestly nothing was the worst with this film. I mean, of course I would have loved to have learned more of Joanna’s story, and Connor’s. I would have liked to have understood his motivations and his choices, but then again, I appreciate that we aren’t meant to. I really think this film was near perfect.
Rating (out of 5): 5