Fish Tank (IFC Films) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, April 15th, 2024  

Fish Tank

Studio: IFC Films

Jan 30, 2010 Issue #29 - Year End 2009 - Best of the Decade
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First-time actress Katie Jarvis delivers a wonderfully expressive and nuanced lead performance as Mia, an aimless Essex teen in English writer/director Andrea Arnold’s superb second feature, Fish Tank. Mia, a foul-mouthed 15-year-old loner with a nose for trouble, lives in a council flat with her single mom (Kierston Wareing) and tween sister (Rebecca Griffiths). When she’s not trading insults with them, she’s drinking beers and scuffling with hater peers on the streets. Excluded from school, Mia wanders about town in her hoodie, finding solace in the empty flat where she practices hip-hop dancing. When her mom’s new, charismatic boyfriend Connor (the excellent Michael Fassbender) begins sleeping over and takes the family on a rare drive outside the city for a fishing excursion, a deceptive glimmer of optimism and purpose filters into Mia’s days.

Although Arnold’s previous film Red Road won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2006, the digitally shot mystery/thriller was as tediously methodical as it was fascinating. Fish Tank, though also grounded in social realism, unfolds with a persistently intriguing aura of discovery until its suspenseful and alarming climax. Fish Tank was shot mostly in sequence, its strikingly natural imagery captured on film stock in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio by Red Road DP Robbie Ryan. Arnold withheld the script from the actors before production commenced and gave them individual scenes only days prior to filming.

There are parallels between Fish Tank and the highly praised An Educationthe two films would make a formidable double featurebut Fish Tank digs deeper emotionally to explore the complications and repercussions of teen awakening glossed over in An Education. Fish Tank shared the 2009 Jury Prize at Cannes and has cemented Arnold’s stature as one of international cinema’s premiere filmmakers. (

Author rating: 8/10

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