Friday, August 14, 2015

Fish Tank Review

Mia is angry. She's abrasive and vulgar and violent. 15 years old and already thrown out of school, it becomes apparent within minutes that her life is a lonely one. We see her surroundings, a downtrodden community that almost feels lost, like a world that has been shoved aside and forgotten. A world a lot like Mia. We meet her mother, a woman who seems damaged and emotionally corrupted. A woman who hates the world just as much if not more than she hates herself. A woman a lot like Mia. We meet her little sister Tyler, a young girl with a mouth just as foul as the women whom she calls family. Born into this home, into this world, with this mother. A child never has a chance. 

A fate just like Mia's.

One day, Mia meets Connor, her mom's new boyfriend. The world around her is exactly the same, yet it's different. The woman who brought her into this world is just as detestable, but now she has someone to dance with. A handsome, mysterious man. Connor. A positive addition to their dynamic capable of breaking up the routine of predictable misery, or yet another stormy cloud hanging over a girl who could use a ray of sunlight? 

Fish Tank is a film soaked in sadness with a palpable bleakness emitting from nearly every frame, and what really allows it to hit you where it hurts is the unfortunate realism found in Andrea Arnold's lens and the superb performances, especially from Katie Jarvis in the lead role as Mia and Michael Fassbender as Connor. Something about the way Arnold films Fish Tank made me feel voyeuristic throughout, at times like I was a fly on the wall watching Mia deal with her anger and pain alone and at other times as if I was seeing the world around her from her perspective. When Mia is watching her mother and Connor through the crack of a door, I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable, like I shouldn't be there. A feeling of anxiety as I wondered if Mia would be noticed. I felt anxious and a distinct lack of comfort often during the second half of Fish Tank, with a few sequences destined to linger in my mind for quite some time. 

Mia is never meant to be a likable character yet somewhere inside the performance of Jarvis I found that I cared about her, that I understood her situation and empathized with her. Some people just adapt to their surrounding and circumstances and it can get ugly on the surface, but deep down there is a person who gives a shit and just wants to be happy. A person who just wants to be noticed and feel loved. We get a glimpse of that side of her character when she encounters a beautiful horse chained up and Mia attempts to free it. The horse is a victim of these surroundings as well and much like Mia, it deserves more from it's life. It deserves better.

Towards the end of the picture, a scene takes place between Mia and her mother, a sad woman dancing alone to Nas' song "Life's a Bitch", and inside the simplicity of this sequence there is a raw and honest power that hit me pretty hard. For the first time Mia truly sees her mom. For the first time she understands.

Sometimes you just need someone to dance with.


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