Mia Williams is the best kind of character. She’s unpredictable, fearless, complicated and compassionate. Her mundane life featuring an alcoholic mother is turned on it’s head with the introduction of her mother’s new boyfriend in the 2009 film from the United Kingdom, Fish Tank. Written and directed by Andrea Arnold, this drama about a young girl coming into her own felt authentic and unique; never giving in to stereotypical storylines.
Arnold, director of the Dogma 95 film Red Road which was entry #19 delivers a powerful film that only flaw lies in my own ability to understand the dialogue. We begin the film with a fairly typical look at Mia, a rebellious fifteen year old who has little respect for her mother. That being said, throughout the film, her mother deserves little to no respect. Mia has a fascination with dance and practices continually throughout the film. This seems to be the one aspect in life that she enjoys as otherwise she’s a bratty, trouble making teen. Things change completely for the family once the mother gets a new boyfriend Connor, played by the electric Michael Fassbender. Connor straightens up the house and both Mia and Tyler seem to respond to this new-found rules based living. Connor and the mother like to party, have parties and have sex while the kids may or may not be watching them. This is where we get a sense that he might not be exactly what he appears. It’s clear from early on that Mia is fascinated with Connor, and not just because he’s the new man of the house. She develops a crush on him and agrees to dance for him after her mother has passed out drunk. From here the movie really takes a bold turn and frankly takes a lot of risks that you don’t see too often in movies these days. It’s really something to commend Arnold for and I hope to see her next directorial effort.
The acting really boils down to two different things in this film. First of all, Michael Fassbender is magnetic, and no that’s not an X-Men: First Class joke. He’s literally tough not to watch in the scenes that he’s in, he’s that good. Playing this paternal character he comes off just a touch slimy and the audience can’t quite figure out why until the end when you realize who exactly he is and what sort of character he has. The other thing about this film is the casting and acting of young Katie Jarvis as the lead character Mia. Now, here’s the thing about Jarvis in this role. She’s fantastic in her performance of this troubled teen, most likely because according to IMDB, she’s never acted before this role. This is a non-professional actor who delivers a commendable performance in a role that would be difficult for the most seasoned of Hollywood actresses. IMDB continues on to say that she was offered up the role after being overhead arguing with a boyfriend. Talk about having a character made for you as it sounds like she is this character. Getting down to it a little bit, I’m sure you can make the argument that if this is her in real life then she’s not really having to act much, as was the case with Eminem in the film Eight Mile. Regardless of what was asked of her, Jarvis was up to the task in this film and the chemistry, however odd and yucky it was, between her and Fassbender made each scene with them creepy yet gripping.
As with most of my complaints with films from the United Kingdom, I couldn’t understand a lot of what’s being said during the film. Normally in a plot heavy film such as Harry Brown, I’m not too bothered by it. In this case, there was so much involved in the dialogue and the way people said things, not just what they said, that I found it difficult to follow at times because I couldn’t pick up the phrases being used. That being said, it is a quality film that is one that I’m glad I watched.