Monday, 7 November 2011

Fish Tank

I waited far too long to watch this British masterpiece from 2009.

Fish Tank tells the story of Mia, an angry, lonely fifteen-year-old girl who has grown up with her mother and younger sister in a council estate just outside of London. Her young mother clearly has no clue how to be a parent and Mia struggles alone to find her way in life. She spies on her peers and seems to want to have friends, but can’t control her foul mouth and thus alienates everyone around her. To pass the time, Mia practices dancing in an empty flat because that’s what she wants to do with her life. When her mother’s latest boyfriend tells her how good she is, she develops a crush on him, with rather disastrous results. But Mia is nothing if not resilient and the word disaster seems exaggerated in this understated film, though it is hard to imagine Mia ever having a happy life.

Katie Jarvis plays Mia and she is in every second of this film, so Fish Tank lives and dies with her performance. In this case, Fish Tank lives because her performance is flawless. This is less surprising when one learns that Jarvis grew up in a housing estate just like the one in the film. Michael Fassbender as the mother’s boyfriend is also very good. But it is the writing and direction of Andrea Arnold that must be credited for creating a sublime, haunting and truthful work of cinematic art.

One of the things that makes Fish Tank special is the way we see everything from Mia’s viewpoint and begin to feel and think what she is feeling and thinking. It is rather terrifying and the whole story feels all too real.

There are far too many teenagers in the UK growing up in the kind of environment depicted in Fish Tank. With ridiculously-high levels of unemployment among young adults, these teenagers have little to look forward to and start turning to the bottle at a horrifyingly young age. Binge drinking has become far too common among the young people of the UK. The future is bleak for all the Mia’s unless the government funding that is going to the military or to protect the wealthy starts focusing on programs to help the young. The very future of the country is at stake and as a British citizen I am more than a little concerned.

Fish Tank gets an easy ****. My mug is up.

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