VOD film review: Fish Tank
James R | On 16, Feb 2014
Director: Andrea Arnold
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing, Katie Jarvis, Charlotte Collins
If it’s one thing British cinema is good at, it’s kitchen sink dramas. But as our auteurs age with time, who can take up the mantle? Step forward Andrea Arnold, an Oscar-winning Brit with a taste for grit – if you want the kitchen sink, you bet your life she’ll throw one at the camera.
Living in a tower block off the A13, Mia’s (Jarvis) boxed-in broken family are too busy bickering to bond with each other. When it comes to feelings, hatred is the order of the day. Drinking comes a close second. So when mum (Wareing) brings home a new boyfriend, Connor (Fassbender), 15-year-old Mia’s response is pretty much a given – she hates him. Except for one thing: he actually seems rather nice.
Sensitive, a bit sweary and ruggedly handsome, it’s hard not to fall for Fassbender’s charming fella. Mia certainly does. Rooting through his wallet to find out more about him, she stumbles upon something that stops her search dead – a paycheck. This man, a father figure, has a proper job. Will he bring her a proper family too?
Encouraging her to dance, he takes an interest in what she does, even to inappropriate ends. By the time they’re fishing feet-first in the river, the pseudo-paternal tension has got an uneasy current of its own. As he tends to her cut ankle, you can tell it’s only a matter of time before the situation comes to an uncomfortable head.
The screenplay’s natural tone is subtly brought to life by the striking ensemble. Apparently Andrea found Katie Jarvis shouting at a train station, and the sincerity of Mia’s anger is never lost on us once. The events are shot beautifully by DoP Robbie Ryan as well, the countryside of Essex given a Constable-esque style that contrasts poetically with the council flat. Taking a dark, unexpected turn in Tilbury, this is a captivating tale of a working class clash that feels so low-key and realistic that it’s like watching a documentary – one by a seasoned, mature director. The fact that it’s someone’s second feature is even more impressive – two films in and Arnold has already proven she’s a phenomenal filmmaker.