Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Fish Tank

Last week I caught the British film Fish Tank at the IFC Center followed by a Q&A with actor Michael Fassbender. The film had made the rounds among festival circuits in 2009 including Cannes, Telluride and Toronto and had gotten largely positive reviews. I am always a little surprised when top-notch films have problems finding distributors and end up playing on two or four screens in the entire world. The Hurt Locker had trouble finding a backer until Summit finally bit and it is now a Best Picture front-runner. Then again, this is all same-old same-old in the independent film world.

Fish Tank is the second film from director Andrea Arnold (Red Road). Fifteen-year-old Mia is at the center of the story. She is a troubled youth that does not have any good friends, and her relationship with her mother is confrontational. Her best friend is probably her younger sister, who spends a lot of her days just laying around the house cursing and smoking. All three women in this family spend a lot of their time drinking, smoking and cursing. They are simply bored.

Mia gets some inspiration from her one creative outlet, dancing. She loves to dance to modern and classic hip-hop beats and could probably have a future in it if she was just able to focus. Mia’s life is changed forever the day her mother brings home a guy Connor (played by Fassbender).

Let me say this right here:  Michael Fassbender is going to be a prime-time actor. I have already seen him in Hunger, Inglorious Basterds and now Fish Tank and he was memorable in each role. More impressive is the fact that I did not realize all three characters were the same actor until I checked his IMDb page. This is always a sign that a person is about to become the next great character actor.

Connor, after just a few days, begins to develop a relationship with the kids and becomes a father figure in their lives. Mia especially takes very well to Connor. He brings them to new places, shows them some new activities and tries to sort out Mia if you will. How this key relationship turns out I will not say although I am sure most people watching will be able to guess as I did. I mean there are already a number of movies this year that have similar scenarios.

Like those other films (which I won’t name either because that will also give this plot away), this film does end with a sense of optimism for Mia. She is still young, and like anyone else will learn from her mistakes. Katie Jarvis, the 19-year-old actress that plays Mia gives a very commendable performance in her feature film debut. More than anything, I like how this film showcases the talent of two fine young actors on the verge of making their mark.

Finally I have to end this review in wonder as to why such a quality film is opening on the release calendar Siberia that is mid-January to only a few screens. Probably the same reason why hardly anyone I know has seen The Hurt Locker. Some things never change.

4 / 5 stars


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