Tilbury Town railroad station, Tilbury, Essex, England - a common event unfolds on the train platform. A young woman is arguing with her boyfriend. But what seems like a natural occurrence to the naked eye is a turning point in nineteen-year-old Katie Jarvis's life, as an Oscar®-winning director, Andrea Arnold, was watching the argument unfold from across the train platform. And thus begins the story of Fish Tank, a gritty and gripping 2009 drama, set in England, directed by Andrea Arnold. Katie Jarvis, the volatile and angry girlfriend on the platform, stars as Mia Williams, a fifteen-year-old binge drinking high-school dropout, living in a small tenement with her single mother Joanne, played by the British Independent Film Award nominee Kierston Waering, and her younger sister Tyler, played by Rebecca Griffiths. Mia is an expelled student, a volatile adolescent, and a passionate street dancer. After a day of picking fights with fellow street-dancing females, illegally purchasing alcohol from street dealers, avoiding a conference with a secondary school representative and trying to rescue a white horse from a seemingly abandoned lot, the teenager returns home to find that her mother has brought home a young man, Connor, played by Hunger's Michael Fassbender. Connor is a seemingly nice man, who takes Mia, Joanne and Tyler on a family drive to go fishing at a secluded pond. But Connor is sheltered beneath a shell that hides the man's true colors, as his eyes are not focused on Mia's drinking, smoking, abusive mother - they are focused on Mia.
The style in which Fish Tank is filmed resembles that of Christian Mungiu's 4 luni, 3 sãptãmâni ºi 2 zile (known in English by 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days), in that what is being filmed is almost a documentary. The camera shakes when Mia is attacked by three tough boys when trying to rescue the white horse. The camera shakes when Mia chases after Connor's car after he walks out on her mother, and as Mia flees from the clutches of the three thugs in the lot. A handheld camera is used for scenes when Mia is in the abandoned apartment, practicing her hip-hop dancing to Ja Rule and Nas. The brilliant and engaging "new" camera style enables the audience to engage more sufficiently in Mia's life as she lives it.
Rarely do I ever close my eyes in films, and rarely do I have to reach over and hold the hand of whomever is sitting next to me in the theatre, whether it be my mother, father, sister, or that woman sitting next to me who keeps chatting with her girlfriend, but Fish Tank and Katie Jarvis's exhilarating, awe-inspiring, heartbreaking performance made me do both. Her role pins you to your seat from the very first scene to the very last moments, which has been seen once before this year in a young newcomer's performance in a motion picture - Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire. In fact, Fish Tank has been referred to as Britain's Precious, two motion pictures with hauntingly similar yet eerily different plotlines - a high-school dropout, living in a bad area, with an abusive parent and troubled lives. Like Sidibe, the debutante Katie Jarvis outshines and upstages veteran actors such as Michael Fassbender and Kierston Waering, and offers an authentic and breathtaking role in an unfortunately relatable part.
Fish Tank: Directed by Andrea Arnold. Starring Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Waering, Rebecca Griffiths and Harry Treadaway.