British Import ‘Fish Tank’ Crosses the Pond With Fantastic Results


The British actor Katie Jarvais pauses during an intense scene in the British indie film “Fish Tank,” directed by Andrea Arnold. | Photo courtesy of allmoviephoto

Sammy Warshaw ’12
Staff Writer

The British actor Katie Jarvais pauses during an intense scene in the British indie film “Fish Tank,” directed by Andrea Arnold. | Photo courtesy of allmoviephoto

Chances are, you have not heard much about the British indie film, “Fish Tank,” which was released in limited theaters several weeks ago.

If you have heard anything, there is a pretty big chance you have heard some overwhelming praise. I would like to join in by saying “Fish Tank” is the best British indie film since “Trainspotting,” made 14 years ago.

Newcomer Katie Jarvais plays Mia, a troubled 15–year–old girl who finds an interest in her wicked mother’s new boyfriend, Connor, played by Michael Fassbender. Fassbender, who is coming off his newfound fame from “Inglourious Basterds,” gives a strong performance as a seemingly Mr. Nice Guy who has more than a few flaws.

However, the real standout is Jarvais, in her first big screen performance.

It’s hard to believe that such an inexperienced actress could nail such a raw and polarizing role.

Jarvais and Fassbender are among other great performances such as Mia’s mother, played by the excellent Kierston Wareing.

Before I go any further into this review, I feel obligated to say that “Fish Tank” isn’t for everybody. It is incredibly bleak, there is no soundtrack, and the film is projected with a narrow screen whose camera is constantly shaking.

One of the most remarkable qualities about the film is how it is like nothing else. When I was watching the movie, I felt like a part of Mia’s life, like an innocent bystander.

Director Andrea Arnold shows the perfect mix of moody and dramatic visuals and heart–wrenching drama. From a director whose only past work was another British thriller, the directing work is masterful.

As I said before, this film is not for the faint of heart. There is constant use of explicit language, mature thematic elements and some unpleasant images. At least five people walked out during the middle of the film.

What makes “Fish Tank” so devastating is its realistic and brutal portrait of a poor teenager in Britain’s underbelly. Watching a teenager who is isolated from society, unloved by her own mother, and at times abuses drugs and alcohol, may be too big of a shock from some viewers.

However, this may also be a good reason to go and seek out this movie. The audience gets a first hand look at a realistic and disturbing family. I cannot stress the feeling of gratitude and acceptance I gained from sitting through this film.

Without giving too much away about the plot, I feel compelled to mention that the final act will leave you breathless.

Movies like this give me reassurance about the wonders of cinema. In a time when disasters like “The Spy Next Door” and “Leap Year” are given the green light by major production companies, I am glad that “Fish Tank” is around.