In 2009, director Andrea Arnold won the Cannes Jury Prize for Fish Tank. It is a film which is part of the Criterion Collection, an impressive collection of important classic and contemporary films. Fish Tank is a contemporary film on so many levels. It portrays real-life challenges that people deal with today. The film gears on anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem suffered by an adolescent growing up in a broken home where she is desperate for attention.
The film takes place in the projects of the United Kingdom. Mia (played by Katie Jarvis) lives an Essex Estate with her abusive, cruel, self-centered, and alcoholic mother along with her negative little sister. Due to Mia’s attitude and destructive behavior, she has been kicked out of school and is waiting to hear if she can go to an alternative school due to her explosive behavior. She continues to be a vocal and harsh adolescent that only sees more negatives than positives day-after-day. Mia finally starts to feel cared for when her Mom introduces her to new boyfriend, Connor (played by Michael Fassbender). Connor is as immature as Mia’s mother, but he is more welcoming and friendly than her. Connor starts to grow on Mia. However, after an inappropriate, intimate situation between Mia and Connor which Mia cherishes, her world starts to crumble even more.
Fish Tank shows that Mia wants to feel cared for, and the scenario between her and Connor crosses boundaries that are a red flag. Given, Mia already has a life where her mother does not care about her at all, she feels drawn to and connected with Connor. Mia is fifteen and Connor is twice her age. This leads Connor to want to disconnect from Mia and her mom due to the risqué scenario that he put himself in with Mia. Throughout the movie, I felt like I was following Mia while she sought to resolve the conflict with Connor. The theme is dark, yet inviting, and the film portrays it well with dark cinematography where it is clear that Mia is only making matters more emotional for herself.
The film has a generous amount of realistic anxiety which the viewer feels watching Fish Tank. At one point when Mia is in a huge dispute with her mother (she is in a dispute in almost every scene with her mother), she screams “You’re what’s wrong with me!” That quote rings true to the Mia’s upbringing and the source of her harsh attitude. Viewers will find it obvious that she was not raised properly. Her mother is always drinking or dozing off into space, and whenever her and Mia talk, it turns into World War III. This shows why Mia is determined to feel connected to Connor (even though it is inappropriate). She feels he will care for her, but the film shows that this relationship has serious consequences.
Fish Tank is realistic filmmaking at its finest. The film accurately depicts the problems many adolescents from broken homes tend to face in today’s world. The film also shows that Mia has limited options when it comes to finding an escape to help better herself. She feels Connor can be that for her. Due to what she has lived with most of her life (being raised in a broken home with an abusive mother), she does not fully comprehend the consequences of her actions. Due to the film’s realism and effectiveness at showing a dire situation in a poetic way, I give Fish Tank three and a half stars.