Fish Tank is a British film done by Andrea Arnold who wrote and directed it. The story is peppered with characters all of which share the major flaw of poor decision making. The main character is a young female teenager who has no guidance in life and is full of anger and cursing most of the time. Yet somehow the film makes us root for her to succeed.
Mia (Katie Jarvis) is a 15-year-old girl that lives in a poor part of Essex with her negligent mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and her younger sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths). She is a foul mouthed troublemaker who lacks friends, guidance and education as she was recently kicked out of her current school.
Mia spends most of her time roaming the streets. She trespasses gated areas and tries to free a horse which is a symbolic figure of herself, chained up and seemingly neglected. Her one true passion seems to be dancing, which is does alone in her room.
Joanne does not have any interest in raising her children properly. She is more focused on hosting parties in her living room and boozing than giving her children the proper attention. While making breakfast one morning, Mia discovers that Joanne brought home a new man from the previous night. He is a charming and good looking man named Connor (Michael Fassbender) who just so happens to be great with kids.
Mia slowly becomes more and more interested in him. One afternoon Connor takes the family out to a secluded river where only Mia is brave enough to join him in the water. He proceeds to impressively catch a fish with his bare hands. This is where she spots a tattoo on his arm of one of his ex-girlfriends. We learn that he may be a man who easily commits to women and assume he has been fairly serious with someone in his past.
The first smile we see from Mia is when she is talking to Connor. He notices how good she looks when she does crack a smile. She shares with him her desire to become a dancer and that there is a dancer position available. He is very encouraging to her and tells to go for it. He even offers his camera to her so she can take a video to send in for the dancer position.
One night he asks if she would show him the dance she has been working on. She is hesitant at first but obliges. It is the first time that we see that he finds her attractive as he leans in for a kiss that quickly escalates into something much more. He tells her that she cannot tell anyone else what happened between them.
Fish Tank does a good job on showing each character’s flaws. Mia has many that range from breaking in to people’s houses to getting into fights with anyone that disagrees with her. Joanne’s flaw is as broad as being a mother in the first place. Even though Connor is a very likable character he still makes bad decisions with women.
The film relies heavily on Katie Jarvis’s performance as the camera almost always has her in frame, following her around the entire time. Luckily, she plays the part wonderfully. Jarvis had never acted before her role of Mia. She was found when the casting director saw her having a fight with her boyfriend at a train station. It is easy to see how natural the role must have been for her.
I could not help but compare this film to the film Precious. Both feature troubled young teens whose parents care for nothing about them and have zero friends. Although, there are many differences between each, the biggest one is how much further Precious pushed it’s boundaries.
At times Fish Tank showed glimpses of brilliance but overall it was not as rewarding as it could have been. Still, it was a pleasure to watch for what it was, a good character study of a 15 year old troublemaker. The film impressively does not rely on much dialog for the first half hour yet still manages to build Mia’s character well. If you are the kind of person that prefers a character driven film over a plot driven one then you will get the most out of Fish Tank.