Fish Tank (2009) – Film Review

Fish Tank 

Starring Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, and Michael Fassbender

Directed and written by Andrea Arnold

IMDB Rating: 7.3

Review by Rachel Geiger

This is a complicated yet compelling British film that is likely to blow your mind. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, it’s a movie that has stuck with me long after I watched it for the first time.

Mia Williams (Katie Jarvis) is a 15-year-old girl living in the rough part of East London with her single mom and little sister. Mia is an angry and isolated teen who often gets in fights with her peers. The one thing that she enjoys is dancing, but don’t think this a movie JUST about dance. Hip-hop dancing is something that Mia uses as an escape, but she doesn’t often do it in front of others. Anyway, Mia finds herself getting involved with her mom’s new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). The movie then takes a dark turn but all I can say is that this movie has a lot of unexpected moments in it.

This movie definitely isn’t what you would consider to be an uplifting film. This isn’t the movie that you watch if you want to walk away feeling like you can do anything. This is the type of movie that you watch when you want to appreciate art. It’s a drama, but it also is extremely well-written. It has a creative plot with well-rounded and complex characters. I really appreciated the writing specifically because I feel like the characters all come with their own background story. Some films easily get that part wrong so it’s a relief that this one was so developed. This is far from being your typical angsty coming of age movie. There’s also not a good guy and a bad guy, there’s just flawed characters that have some likable moments scattered along the way.

Katie Jarvis had no acting experience when she was cast in the lead role. The casting director just happened to see her arguing with her boyfriend and thought that she would be perfect for the role. With that being said, she does a pretty good job for someone who never had an acting job before stepping into being the leading lady. She honestly doesn’t fit the bill as being your typical Hollywood actress, but I think that’s what makes her more real. She was beyond convincing as the angry teenager who often choreographed her own dances to the rap songs that she listened to. While the other acting in the film was good, Katie Jarvis without a doubt gets the most credit for her role and it’s definitely deserved. She more or less carries the film on her back and makes it look easy. There is no one else who could have played this role as well as she did.

The directing from Andrea Arnold was a huge part of what made the film work. This film required a lot of action and not a whole lot of dialogue. There were many scenes that relied mainly on the camera work and I think that Arnold made wise filming choices. She had to showcase the background of this young girl and show us where she’s coming from. I think what I liked best about the directing was how Arnold chose to see things only from Mia’s point of view. We get to see her reactions to what’s going on without seeing things from inside her mother or her mother’s boyfriends heads. It’s a complicated film tactic but Arnold makes it work by causing us to sympathize with Mia only. It’s just a gritty but realistic type of film and I think the directing had a large role in pulling that realism off.

Overall, this is a complicated and unique film. As I said earlier, don’t check this one out if you’re looking for a funny movie. It’s honestly a depressing film but it also is beautiful and different. It’s one of the more realistic films that I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t tell you who is the hero or who is the villain, it’s just people who make mistakes and sometimes that can be an intriguing type of film to watch. Fish Tank is a movie I highly recommend checking out. It will blow your mind!

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