Every now and then, I see a film which I have to recommend to everyone. I not only love it irrationally (and I’ve irrationally loved many a bad film), but I also think it’s a really great film. Fish Tank is that recommendation. It is currently out on DVD and definitely worth checking out.
Fish Tank directed by Andrea Arnold might seem like yet another yawn fest of British realism and teen angst with lots of grey and concrete. Yes, there is a lot of grey and concrete, but there are also bright colors, interesting characters, and lots of dancing.
Fish Tank is about a fifteen year old girl named Mia who lives in a council flat with her mother and younger sister. Mia is angry and seems to only like drinking cheap cider and dancing hip hop. When her mom’s latest boyfriend moves in, her world changes and she doesn’t quite know how to take that.
Fish Tank was an especially nice surprise after a lame Oscar season although I was really delighted by The Fighter which put the fun into a dysfunctional family.
I also really liked Winter’s Bone which was too good for the Oscars. That’s the one about a teenager named Ree (played exquisitely by Jennifer Lawrence) who’s trying to find her tweeker father who jumped bail. Her quest takes her through poor rural America where we meet some dubious relations. Little by little, we see a world both primal and tragic.
Unlike Ree who trying to keep it all together, Mia in Fish Tank is trying to break it all apart. She is trying to get what she can and get out and get away. She doesn’t have a noble cause. She’s a teenager. She’s not innocent although she thinks she knows more than she really knows.
Her world is a prison, but it’s a prison that is deceptive. The walls of the prison keep changing. The rules of the game keep changing.
As I watched Mia, it didn’t matter if I liked her or not. She didn’t cry out for love. She remained true to her shifting self, and I wondered how far she would go.
Like Mia, the film itself keeps changing and evolving. Apparently, the film was shot in sequence, and the actors were only given the next day’s pages. As a result, we’re all watching something evolve while not quite knowing where it’s going.
I can reassure you that the film does end, and it ends well. The last two scenes were quite moving in unexpected ways.