“Fish Tank” – 2009. Dir. Andrea Arnold

With Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing Rebecca Griffiths


“You need sortin’ out, you do.” – Connor (Michael Fassbender)

For me, “Fish Tank” was a must see. Not only did my friend Kevin highly recommend it to me, but it’s also a fresh Criterion release and it stars Michael Fassbender. Nough said. “Fish Tank” is similar to the film “An Education” – but this film is a lot darker and grittier, and it’s a lot better.

We meet Mia (the remarkable debut by non actress Katie Jarvis) from the first frame of the film. She lives in housing projects in Essex. She spends most of her days walking tall on the streets, not backing down from anyone or anything, practicing her hip hop dancing and drinking.

Everything changes when her Mother (Kierston Wareing) – who looks way too young to be Mia’s mother – brings home her new boyfriend Connor (the man, Michael Fassbender). Mia acts tough to Connor, but she’s very, very intrigued by him. She’s always watching him, watches his movements, his motions – Mia almost becomes obsessed with Connor.

Connor is unlike anyone Mia has ever met. He takes the family (which includes Mia’s foulmouthed bratty younger sister) to a hidden forest and creek. It’s unlike anything Mia has ever experienced. Everything is so bright, green – full of life. She absorbs the freshness of it all, while Connor guides her into the creek so she can feel the fish rub up against her legs.

Connor is very supportive of Mia, when she tells him that she is going to try out to become a dancer, Connor lends Mia a video camera so she can send in a tape. There is erotic tension between Mia and Connor – but it doesn’t feel wrong – it feels innocent and new.

This film not only reminds me of “An Education” but also “Lolita”. The reason it reminds me of “Lolita” isn’t because of the relationship between Connor and Mia, it’s because we are only shown things from Mia’s perspective. We only see what she does, nothing more and nothing less; just like how the only things we see in “Lolita” is from Humbert’s perspective.

Arnolds shot this film digitally and with handheld cameras painting us this gritty and raw picture of life in the projects. It’s an unapologetic film that’s masterfully directed by Arnolds. The climax of this film, between Mia and Connor is so remarkable; I can’t get the flawlessness of it out of my head.

With most things in life, nothing is ever what it seems – and this film reinforces the fact that we will never truly ever know anyone and the most complicated thing in life is our relationships with other people. Sometimes good people do bad things, and bad people do good things and we are left with no explination.

Rating: 9/10


Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

8 thoughts on ““Fish Tank” – 2009. Dir. Andrea Arnold”

    1. Yeah, I am really, really impressed by the film. I loved it. I picked up the blu ray Criterion of this, and the supplements include her previous three short films. One of them, “Wasp”, won her an Oscar for Best Live Action Short. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

    1. I agree 100%, I collect them like it’s my job. I’m sure they’ve listed me as a dependent by now. “Fish Tank”, as with most of my Criterion purchases are all blind buys. I’m very rarely let down by them.

  1. I loved this, thought it was one of the best (top 20) of last year. Usually these coming of age stories are filled with clichés and gag-inducing moments but this was a refreshing exception.

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