Mia (Katie Jarvis) is a teenager from a bad neighborhood who dreams of a career as a dancer. When her mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing) brings home a new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender), Mia connects with him quickly. Connor is a nice guy who treats Mia and her sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths) well and even encourages Mia’s dreams. Flattered by his attention and his general treatment, Mia quickly falls in love with Connor.
Fish Tank is one hell of a movie. Excellently cast, perfectly written and well-shot, it takes no time to make you feel miserable. At least it has the decency to pick you up a little bit at the end.
Fish Tank feels completely real. The portrayal of the neighborhood, the subculture and (though it’s a hated word, it nevertheless fits) the class is spot-on, as are the relationships within Mia’s family and with Connor. Several times I had flashbacks to people I met through my parents’ work (they are in foster care and work closely with social services).
This realism is not only the movie’s biggest strength, it’s also what makes it so damn harrowing to watch: there’s just a fine sense of threat in every scene. You know that this is not a “good environment” Mia’s in and consequently, when she is confronted with basic niceness in the form of Connor, she has no idea how to deal with it. Having never experienced general interest or attention from a guy that wasn’t somehow sexual or aggressive, it’s no wonder she falls in love with Connor. [Also, he’s hot but that’s just an additional plus.]
And Connor who is an asshole and an idiot but not actually a bad guy (though there are some creepy moments) obviously doesn’t know how to say no – to women who flirt with him as little as to himself – and ends up raping Mia [even if it’s not the obvious kind of rape, age of consent is 16 in the UK and apart from that, Mia wasn’t really very enthusiastic – she just didn’t say no]. And your heart breaks when that happens because it was the one chance Mia had at having a “normal”, fatherly relationship with a guy that might have even helped her in her loneliness and then that…
There’s much to talk about in this film, from the story to the characters which are amazingly layered. The actors are great, too. I don’t know if Katie Jarvis actually knows how to act or if she really is like that and it matters little. We don’t need to talk about Michael Fassbender, who is brilliant as usual. And Kierston Wareing was really good, too. I also liked that the movie was shot in 4:3, though it was slightly irritating at first.
Generally speaking, Andrea Arnold really does a wonderful job with this film, though you do hate her a little for being that good.
Summarising: Recommended watching but not an easy film.