Fish Tank (2009)

Fish Tank (2009) – You know some of us work at becoming actors. I mean learning the craft (and learning how irritating it is to non-actors hearing you talk about the “craft”) and technique and all that. It’s easier than digging ditches or running a textile mill for sure, but it’s not as easy as people make it out to be. You really do got to put in the work to be an actor. Or not. Katie Jarvis was fighting with her boyfriend at a train station. A casting director saw her and told her to read for this movie. She did. She’s great in the damn movie and plenty of film critics said so. This makes me want to drop out of school and pick fights at the nearest train station… but probably wouldn’t work as well for me… That’s just luck of the draw though, isn’t it? Some people just have that natural ability thing going and through insane amounts of luck land just the right project. According to imdb, Katie hasn’t done any movies since and according to Wikipedia she had a kid a couple years ago so this probably won’t be one of those “Lana Turner discovered in a drug store” obscurity-to-fame stories.

Fish Tank is about Mia (Jarvis), a rather uncouth teenage girl in an East London housing project. Of course it’s not like bad attitudes come from nowhere. Her mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing, only 13 years older than Jarvis… that’s probably intentional) is not any kind of responsible parent figure. She seems to be more interested in drinking and partying with friends than raising Mia or her other younger daughter Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths). Things get interesting when Joanne starts hooking up with Connor (Michael Fassbender). Since Connor has the whole Fassbender handsome thing going on, Mia develops a bit of a crush on him. Connor also seems to take a bit of a shine to Mia in a way that feels not at all appropriate for a 30-something-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl. Parallel to all of this is Mia’s desire to become a dancer, a situation rendered tragic by the fact that she’s not all that good.

Fish Tank is a downer. Let’s get that out of the way first and foremost. It’s a sad story about sad people. It is a very nuanced depiction of the down-and-out though anchored by strong lead performances by Jarvis and Fassbender. Mia does things in the movie that as a viewer you don’t relate to (at least I hope you fucking don’t) from minor youthful bad ideas to one full-blown felony. The weird thing is you don’t ever condone it, but you understand where it comes from. That’s damn good characterization right there. Fish Tank can drag at times, but it featured a well-developed central character brought electrifyingly to life by a naturally gifted non-actor. It’s worth checking out. Just don’t expect it to lift your spirits.

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