Fish Tank (15)

Film

Drama

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Mar 23 2010

I can understand why some people might recoil at the thought of another British film set on a council estate. Is it worthy? Condescending? Grim? Is it more evidence of a young filmmaker awkwardly exercising their Mike Leigh/Ken Loach fetishes? Well, banish your fears: Andrea Arnold’s follow-up to ‘Red Road’ is a film that brilliantly and sensitively buzzes with life and offers its very own take on our world and our city. It delivers in spades attitude, humour, sadness, love, anger and hope – all wrapped up in a way of telling stories that is very much the director’s own. It’s realism, but it has an intimacy, an immediacy and a dash of poetry that offers a new spin on familiar territory.
Arnold has a keen eye for the border between danger and fulfilment when it comes to sexual feelings, and here she trains that eye on one vulnerable but strong adolescent teenage girl, Mia (Katie Jarvis), who you can’t help but feel for and understand – even after we watch her call a friend’s dad a ‘cunt’ and headbutt another girl so that the blood pours down her face. And that’s just the first five minutes.

Mia lives in a flat in Essex, near the Thames estuary, with her mum Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and her little sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffith). Mia calls her little sis ‘fuck face’ and little sis calls her ‘cunt face’ back. The TV blares out reality shows and makeover programmes. Outside, Arnold’s camera sucks up the territory on which she films; flats, busy roads, flyovers, scraps of land and suburban shop parades all lend a strong sense of place without any sense of gawking or romanticising. This is Mia’s world and there it is: it can sometimes look ugly, sometimes look beautiful. Arnold and DoP Robbie Ryan shoot in the unusual 1.33:1 aspect ratio, so the screen is almost square, but ‘Fish Tank’ feels more like a series of personal Polaroids than TV, the glare of the sun often dancing across the lens in the manner of home snapshots.

Nothing about all this feels miserable. It helps that Arnold tells her tale at the height of summer so that the sun is always shining. It also helps that Arnold’s way of presenting Mia to us is to stay close to her at all times, to show us her world from her point of view. Crucially, we’re there, alone with Mia, when she regularly decamps to an empty flat and practices her hip hop dance moves. We know there’s more to Mia than antagonism and kneejerk violence and we’re curious about what’s going on in this girl’s head.

We’re there, too, when her mum brings home a man, Connor (Michael Fassbender), who is soon living with them, doing the washing-up with his top off and taking them for a drive. Mia’s smiles show that she likes him, while he pays her more attention than anyone else in her life, praising her dance moves, giving her a piggyback, even tucking her up in bed when she pretends to be asleep. Their relationship takes unusual, even alarming turns, but always Arnold avoids obvious judgements, obvious explanations. Hers is an intimate drama of grey areas and all the better and more thoughtful – and thought-provoking – for it.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Sep 11, 2009

Duration:

124 mins

Cast and crew

Cast:

Michael Fassbender, Thomas Ian Griffith, Graham Jarvis

Cinematography:

Robbie Ryan

Director:

Andrea Arnold

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:14
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|42
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Theresa

This film totally blew me away with it's outstanding performances from the two leads. Newcomer Katie Jarvis in particular stole the show with Fassbender burning up the screen. Give me a film that's slow, sure, subtle and poetic over that tanked up turbo charged American twank that Hollywood insists on churning out, ANYDAY!!

Theresa

This film totally blew me away with it's outstanding performances from the two leads. Newcomer Katie Jarvis in particular stole the show with Fassbender burning up the screen. Give me a film that's slow, sure, subtle and poetic over that tanked up turbo charged American twank that Hollywood insists on churning out, ANYDAY!!

hamish

The film is about a child being raped. I (obviously) found it troubling. I'm mystified by most of the other comments..

hamish

The film is about a child being raped. I (obviously) found it troubling. I'm mystified by most of the other comments..

William

This is one of the best British films I have ever seen. You have to like gritty realism, and good acting, and this won't be everyone's cup of tea; giving it less than 4 stars is just idiocy. But I felt that this really captured the brutalities and disappointments of everyday council flat life in the UK better than anything else, and added humour, tragedy, and complex characters. Great film and highly recommended.

William

This is one of the best British films I have ever seen. You have to like gritty realism, and good acting, and this won't be everyone's cup of tea; giving it less than 4 stars is just idiocy. But I felt that this really captured the brutalities and disappointments of everyday council flat life in the UK better than anything else, and added humour, tragedy, and complex characters. Great film and highly recommended.

Sebastian

Reading some reviews of this film anger me. To call this film "pointless" and to compare it to such cheesy and fake movies like "Kidulthood" really, really irks me. I understand this film is not for everyone, but to say its "pointless", it makes me question if you've even seen the film. It's slow moving, quiet, understated, rough around the edges, but those are qualities I love in films and it tugged at my heartstrings tremendously and had a dark, gritty message about adolescence that is rarely shown in such an accurate way. The film's locale is important, yet just a backdrop for the main character to play off of and really adds to the overall mood and theme of the entire movie. Katie Jarvis's performance is absolutely haunting, sensitive, angry, and moving, and to discredit her because she's come from a similar background isn't fair, the way she balances the outer, angry shell of Mia and shows the soft, sensitive underlying is simply beautiful. Andrea Arnold is an absolutely amazing director and takes us through this story sometimes subtly, and sometimes harshly, but it all feels natural, and everything comes together seamlessly. The attention to details really set this apart from other films in this subgenre and all I know is I will remember "Fish Tank" for a very, very long time.

Sebastian

Reading some reviews of this film anger me. To call this film "pointless" and to compare it to such cheesy and fake movies like "Kidulthood" really, really irks me. I understand this film is not for everyone, but to say its "pointless", it makes me question if you've even seen the film. It's slow moving, quiet, understated, rough around the edges, but those are qualities I love in films and it tugged at my heartstrings tremendously and had a dark, gritty message about adolescence that is rarely shown in such an accurate way. The film's locale is important, yet just a backdrop for the main character to play off of and really adds to the overall mood and theme of the entire movie. Katie Jarvis's performance is absolutely haunting, sensitive, angry, and moving, and to discredit her because she's come from a similar background isn't fair, the way she balances the outer, angry shell of Mia and shows the soft, sensitive underlying is simply beautiful. Andrea Arnold is an absolutely amazing director and takes us through this story sometimes subtly, and sometimes harshly, but it all feels natural, and everything comes together seamlessly. The attention to details really set this apart from other films in this subgenre and all I know is I will remember "Fish Tank" for a very, very long time.

Jan Berlin

Thank you, Catie Thomas, for your comment!!! "An assured piece of phoniness"? You don’t seem to get the film at all, Mr. Uhlich. Someone who writes a review like this og Andrea Arnold‘s masterpiece hasn’t understood anything. Sad.

Jan Berlin

Thank you, Catie Thomas, for your comment!!! "An assured piece of phoniness"? You don’t seem to get the film at all, Mr. Uhlich. Someone who writes a review like this og Andrea Arnold‘s masterpiece hasn’t understood anything. Sad.

alastair

don't really understand the 1 star reviews here, and people saying it's too long and boring - i don't like having films built up for me but this really is a great film - incredibly beautiful, poetic and tense, and as the reviewer says avoiding obvious judgments and explanations - one of the best british films i've seen

alastair

don't really understand the 1 star reviews here, and people saying it's too long and boring - i don't like having films built up for me but this really is a great film - incredibly beautiful, poetic and tense, and as the reviewer says avoiding obvious judgments and explanations - one of the best british films i've seen

sean

I watched this with my partner and we both liked this film, I don't why anyone would call this boring or uneventful. True, it shows the grim side of Essex life and from a point of view that many may not identify with. As we watched we felt for the main character Mia and having both been brought up on 'tough' inner South London estates we knew what she was going through (albeit we are a few generations removed). It makes me laugh that people want to analyse this with a fine pin, take it for what it is, a good solid film that shows the shitty side of life, a theme most people want to ignore or stick their heads firmly up their middle class arses and hope it goes away. Cath is right in saying that council estates are good places for filmmaking because of the directness of characters who live there and Jo is way off the mark criticising Katie Jarvis for not being a complete actress who would struggle with period drama...there are plenty of actors/actresses twice, three times Katie's age who would struggle with period drama...and as for Lingdada, you need to get out in the real world and take a look at what's going on around you, but then again maybe driving daddy's bentley wouldn't go down well cruisin' the streets of Peckham or Walworth eh?

sean

I watched this with my partner and we both liked this film, I don't why anyone would call this boring or uneventful. True, it shows the grim side of Essex life and from a point of view that many may not identify with. As we watched we felt for the main character Mia and having both been brought up on 'tough' inner South London estates we knew what she was going through (albeit we are a few generations removed). It makes me laugh that people want to analyse this with a fine pin, take it for what it is, a good solid film that shows the shitty side of life, a theme most people want to ignore or stick their heads firmly up their middle class arses and hope it goes away. Cath is right in saying that council estates are good places for filmmaking because of the directness of characters who live there and Jo is way off the mark criticising Katie Jarvis for not being a complete actress who would struggle with period drama...there are plenty of actors/actresses twice, three times Katie's age who would struggle with period drama...and as for Lingdada, you need to get out in the real world and take a look at what's going on around you, but then again maybe driving daddy's bentley wouldn't go down well cruisin' the streets of Peckham or Walworth eh?

Danni

It was the slowest, most pointless film I have ever seen. Why on earth did they cast a girl who's playing someone who's passionate about dance, who hates dancing? I rented this from blockbuster thinking it would be a great film to watch, almost like kidulthood, but it was slow, way too long, nothing really happened, and it was boring. The only upside was that it was fairly realistic. I regret choosing this film. It spoiled my night, I kept sitting there all of the way through waiting for something good to happen, and I was left disappointed.

Danni

It was the slowest, most pointless film I have ever seen. Why on earth did they cast a girl who's playing someone who's passionate about dance, who hates dancing? I rented this from blockbuster thinking it would be a great film to watch, almost like kidulthood, but it was slow, way too long, nothing really happened, and it was boring. The only upside was that it was fairly realistic. I regret choosing this film. It spoiled my night, I kept sitting there all of the way through waiting for something good to happen, and I was left disappointed.

Catie Thomas

I find it amusing that the pretentious film "critics" from Time Out always seem to find a reason to trash whatever is out there, to show their superiority over A.O. Scott and the 91% of the rest of the country's REAL critics. Any true lover of film, cinema, movies, or what ever you want to call them who doesn't love Fish Tank should perhaps watch "An Education" (a much inferior film) again. Or better yet, watch Ken Loach's beautiful film Poor Cow to see where the inspiration from Ms Arnold's beautifully directed film comes from. At best, Mr Uhlich should be blogging for himself. Not one thing he says here makes a lick of sense, and it's pathetic that Time Out hires such lame ass writers to review films. he wouldn't know what a "Kitchen Sink" movie was if it fell on his thick lame brained head. Cancel my subscription. Catie Thomas.

Catie Thomas

I find it amusing that the pretentious film "critics" from Time Out always seem to find a reason to trash whatever is out there, to show their superiority over A.O. Scott and the 91% of the rest of the country's REAL critics. Any true lover of film, cinema, movies, or what ever you want to call them who doesn't love Fish Tank should perhaps watch "An Education" (a much inferior film) again. Or better yet, watch Ken Loach's beautiful film Poor Cow to see where the inspiration from Ms Arnold's beautifully directed film comes from. At best, Mr Uhlich should be blogging for himself. Not one thing he says here makes a lick of sense, and it's pathetic that Time Out hires such lame ass writers to review films. he wouldn't know what a "Kitchen Sink" movie was if it fell on his thick lame brained head. Cancel my subscription. Catie Thomas.

v.jones

Went on a 2nd Date to watch this, the woman I went with had a 15 and a 13 year old daughter, didn't go on a 3rd date!

v.jones

Went on a 2nd Date to watch this, the woman I went with had a 15 and a 13 year old daughter, didn't go on a 3rd date!

KP

Simply wonderful. Unbelievable acting debut from Katie Jarvis and excellent perfomances from the rest of the cast. This is contemporary British cinema ..with bite ! Hats off to Andrea Arnold. Easily one of my favourite films of recent times.

KP

Simply wonderful. Unbelievable acting debut from Katie Jarvis and excellent perfomances from the rest of the cast. This is contemporary British cinema ..with bite ! Hats off to Andrea Arnold. Easily one of my favourite films of recent times.

Ian

Oy, Leigh, get your coat, and take your faux working class with you. This is the real deal. Heartbreaking, funny and touching, Kate Jarvis is absolutely phenomenal. Best British film for years. Incredible use of Essex, fabulous camera work, really creative incorporation of music into the film. Andrea Arnold, damn you, you made me cry.

Ian

Oy, Leigh, get your coat, and take your faux working class with you. This is the real deal. Heartbreaking, funny and touching, Kate Jarvis is absolutely phenomenal. Best British film for years. Incredible use of Essex, fabulous camera work, really creative incorporation of music into the film. Andrea Arnold, damn you, you made me cry.

John

Katie Jarvis is brilliant and so is the film congratulations to Andrea Arnold.

John

Katie Jarvis is brilliant and so is the film congratulations to Andrea Arnold.

claire

Amazing, intense, real and thought provoking. I need the names of more gritty films like this so i can say goodbye to watching overdone predictable and easy blockbusters.....wow!!!

claire

Amazing, intense, real and thought provoking. I need the names of more gritty films like this so i can say goodbye to watching overdone predictable and easy blockbusters.....wow!!!

Phil Ince

This is a bit of failure, isn't it? Though there are 2 wonderful moments. The sisters' loving goodbyes: "I hate you" "I hate you, too" And the farewell to the mother where all three members of the family dance silently and in unison together. A few really great moments in a film that varies between ordinary and weak. The climax is daft and laboured, I thought, because of the script on one hand and the direction on the other. What 8 year old child who’s been entirely silent whilst dragged half a mile over scrub land would suddenly pipe up: "OK, you're starting to scare me now?" When the non-swimmer teen is wrestling with the child on the bank of an estuary bank, there were what seemed to be interminable shots of teen being kicked by child. For all the suspense the scene had, it might as well have been accompanied by : "Stop kicking me or I'll throw you in the water. I'll throw you in the water if you don't stop kicking me. You'll be going in the water if you don't stop kicking me. Kick me one more time and I'll throw you in the water." It’s endless and could have been accompanied by a intermittent blacked-out captions reading: “Remember: teen can’t swim.� The children's performances and the dialogue for them isn't all that great or convincing. There is something already a bit dodgy about adults getting kids to use extreme language for them whether or not it's for a work of fiction.

Phil Ince

This is a bit of failure, isn't it? Though there are 2 wonderful moments. The sisters' loving goodbyes: "I hate you" "I hate you, too" And the farewell to the mother where all three members of the family dance silently and in unison together. A few really great moments in a film that varies between ordinary and weak. The climax is daft and laboured, I thought, because of the script on one hand and the direction on the other. What 8 year old child who’s been entirely silent whilst dragged half a mile over scrub land would suddenly pipe up: "OK, you're starting to scare me now?" When the non-swimmer teen is wrestling with the child on the bank of an estuary bank, there were what seemed to be interminable shots of teen being kicked by child. For all the suspense the scene had, it might as well have been accompanied by : "Stop kicking me or I'll throw you in the water. I'll throw you in the water if you don't stop kicking me. You'll be going in the water if you don't stop kicking me. Kick me one more time and I'll throw you in the water." It’s endless and could have been accompanied by a intermittent blacked-out captions reading: “Remember: teen can’t swim.� The children's performances and the dialogue for them isn't all that great or convincing. There is something already a bit dodgy about adults getting kids to use extreme language for them whether or not it's for a work of fiction.

Rach

Fabulous film, with the best camera work I've seen in years. I'm far from a teenager, but it brought back all those grim and great bits of being that age. Andrea Arnold you rock!

Rach

Fabulous film, with the best camera work I've seen in years. I'm far from a teenager, but it brought back all those grim and great bits of being that age. Andrea Arnold you rock!

Jo

This was a really good film and I found it interesting, Katie Jarvis is, indeed, good as Mia, but one suspects she is very nuch playing to type. She's still young and, as I understand it, without formal training. In my view, the real challenge for an actor lies in playing a character very different from the actor's own, and one suspects Katie Jarvis would struggle with, for example, period drama.

Jo

This was a really good film and I found it interesting, Katie Jarvis is, indeed, good as Mia, but one suspects she is very nuch playing to type. She's still young and, as I understand it, without formal training. In my view, the real challenge for an actor lies in playing a character very different from the actor's own, and one suspects Katie Jarvis would struggle with, for example, period drama.

Paul - SW11

Yes a must see film, goes beyond Somers Town and trains don't figure. Some uncomfortable moments such as the child abduction and not sure why the police were absent from that part of the story. Then the lead is 15 which the police would be equally interested in, so some aspects of the story is simplified. However, this is a very good film and regular film goers should put this on their list to see either now or on dvd. Great soundtrack and well used in the context of the film. In fact the more I think about it, the more I loved this film, so a rare five stars. BTW, no CGI, no 3D, just a damn good story and acting which is what I really really want!

Paul - SW11

Yes a must see film, goes beyond Somers Town and trains don't figure. Some uncomfortable moments such as the child abduction and not sure why the police were absent from that part of the story. Then the lead is 15 which the police would be equally interested in, so some aspects of the story is simplified. However, this is a very good film and regular film goers should put this on their list to see either now or on dvd. Great soundtrack and well used in the context of the film. In fact the more I think about it, the more I loved this film, so a rare five stars. BTW, no CGI, no 3D, just a damn good story and acting which is what I really really want!