Sunday, January 24, 2010

Movie with Abe: Fish Tank

Fish Tank
Directed by Andrea Arnold
Released January 15, 2010

There is a certain type of film and style of filmmaking that deserves classification in the category of the definitive independent film. Such projects often use unknown actors and focus on extensive character development and deep, interpersonal conversation. Less is always more, and searing dramas seasoned with just a bit of humor are the most common genre. The film primarily boasts a tour de force breakout leading performance, but the entire ensemble is also stronger than it may initially seem. “Fish Tank” fits all those qualifications, and executes them spectacularly, cementing it as the first movie not to be missed in 2010.

The most astounding aspect of “Fish Tank” is the debut of its leading actress. Katie Jarvis was only seventeen years when the film was made (she’s now eighteen), and delivers an exceptionally mature performance that resonates well beyond her years. Her casting in the film, which came about as a result of a loud argument with her boyfriend in a train station, proves that Jarvis has an intimate relationship with this character, and she understands and sympathizes with the anger she has inside of her. Mia, the protagonist in “Fish Tank,” is like a cross between Jenny from “An Education” and Precious from “Precious,” but there’s something starkly different about her. Mia isn’t a kind soul just waiting for the right outlet to let out her compassion. She’s a disgruntled, irritable teenager who goes out of her way to cause trouble and tries not to make friends.

Mia is hardly one-dimensional, and Jarvis embodies her with such energy and disdain that it’s impossible not to be immensely captivated by her. Her true passion is also wonderfully fresh – urban dancing – and some of the film’s most moving moments come when the eternally frowning Mia finally finds a moment of peace and temporary satisfaction in the midst of the intensity of practicing her routine. Jarvis’ portrayal is an extraordinarily involved and powerful one that elevates the film to another level of quality.

Jarvis may be the star, but she isn’t the only noteworthy element of the film. The other members of her dysfunctional family unit, young Rebecca Griffiths as her foul-mouthed sister Tyler and Kierston Wareing as her abusive, promiscuous mother Joanne, are just as dynamic and real as Mia herself. Mia’s attitude becomes all the more understandable when the environment in which she has been brought up is revealed. Also excellent in the film is Michael Fassbender, last seen ordering drei glaser in “Inglourious Basterds,” as Joanne’s new boyfriend who develops a close relationship with Mia. He’s been around for longer than Jarvis, but keeping an eye on him in the future would be just as beneficial. Director Andrea Arnold has also proven herself an impressive director with her second feature film. “Fish Tank” is a gripping, depressing movie that doesn’t cut corners and try to fabricate a happy ending out of its devastating story. There are no illusions in “Fish Tank,” and that makes it an incredible and fascinating experience.


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