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Fish Tank: Angry young Woman

img  Tobias Fischer

This is when two important things start happening in her life. First she finds out about a dancing contest at which she wants to participate in order to achieve something, and so she sets all her hope on it. The second is getting to know her mother's new lover Connor (Michael Fassbender, „Hunger“), who genuinely seems to be interested in and care for her and doesn't treat her like an annoyance or interference. For the first time in Mia's life, she experiences something similar to the kind of family life her mother was never able to provide her with. But there is more between Mia and Connor: The young woman finds herself attracted to him and there is undeniably some chemistry between the two.

Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold („Wasp“) fully banks on her young leading actress Katie Jarvis with her new movie – a wise decision, as the young woman who was cast by Arnold on the street while fighting with her boyfriend, with her authentic, bold, but at the same time moving characterization of Mia genuinely makes a difference in „Fish Tank“. The camera follows Mia on every step she takes, watches and accompanies her ways through her dreary neighbourhood, but never comments or judges her actions. She messes with practically everyone, even if her opponents constitute a danger for her. She fights for what teenagers of probably all generations have fought for: freedom and self-determination. And for refusing to let others dictate what to do - neither her mother, nor teachers or social workers who want to bring her into some school for socially maladjusted teenagers.

Behind her anger, however, vulnerability always shines through. Only in her dancing and by rehearsing for the contest, Mia can act out her desire for freedom. Dancing, for her, represents a magic symbol for her wish for independence and freedom, and it's in those moments when the audience really gets close to her real personality, beneath her facade of outward coolness and toughness. In those moments, Mia acts out her deep yearning for an escape from her background and for an entire new life. But as angry as she is, she is not immune against feelings, and especially Connor fascinates her more and more, as he seems to the only one taking her hopes for the contest and her excitement about dancing really seriously. They get closer and closer, until they inevitably sleep with each other. But in the end, nothing is what it seems, neither with Connor nor with the dancing contest. Life doesn't make things quite that easy for Mia - so she stays angry and keeps fighting to find her own way.

With „Fish Tank“, Andrea Arnold succeeds in painting a social portrait about an underclass female adolescent in revolt. The result is neither a depressing movie about social misery in the suburbs nor is Mia presented as a working class heroine. She actually never manages to be 100% sympathetic for the audience, because, in her anger, she deals out blows against weaker and innocent people around her. But even in those scenes, Arnold draws her protagonists with great affection, she never cooks her goose. So one likes Mia, even when one doesn't condone her behaviour. Thanks to the lifelike and snotty portrayal by Katie Jarvis, Mia is always authentic and convincing in every minute of the movie. „Fish Tank“ show new British cinema at its best: featuring strong characters and realistic stories and social environments – regards from Ken Loach, and Arnold could quite rightly rake some award with her movie at several festivals, including among others the audience award at Cannes.

By Claudia Lindner

Original title: Fish Tank
Great Britain, 2009
Director: Andrea Arnold
Director of Photography: Robbie Ryan
Cast: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing, Rebecca Griffith, Charlotte Collins, Jason Maza, Harry Treadaway,
Music: Liz Gallacher
Production: Nick Laws, Kees Kasander, Christine Langan, David M. Thompson
Distribution: IFC Films

Fish Tank

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