Monday, 15 February 2010

Fish Tank - DVD - 15/2/10

Andrea Arnold could, on the evidence of her first two features, make a reasonable claim to be the best British director of the past twenty years. With both "Red Road" and "Fish Tank" she has written and directed two films that are original and brilliantly crafted. There are clear similarities between both works that hint at a clear vision and style in the same way that Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Shane Meadows possess.

"Fish Tank" follows Mia (Katie Jarvis in her debut) as she negotiates life on a tough London housing estate without much help, love or support from her mother. Within the opening moments we see Mia involved in a violent confrontation with some other teen girls, shouting obscenities at a friends father and displaying even more aggression in her own home. Things appear to be changing for the better when Mias mother brings home her latest boyfriend, Connor, a charming, handsome young Irishman. He shows Mia the love and attention she craves and in return she allows her hard exterior to crack and we catch a glimpse of who she could be.

As with "Red Road" though there is a dark heart at the centre of this film and the hoped for "happily ever after" never seems likely. Something isn't right, something ugly never seems too far away and every innocent gesture and remark is loaded with another meaning. A good example of this is when Connor carries a drunk Mia upstairs to her bedroom, like a father carrying an infant...he gently removes her shoes and slips off her trousers before covering her with a blanket; all completely innocent but something tells you that this is not a scene of homely love but is, instead, something more sinister.

It's difficult to say much more without "spoiling" but I will say that, as with "Red Road", there is a sex scene that changes everything in the film. We shift from suspicion to confirmation and are plunged headlong into the truth of the situation we have been guiltily observing.

Arnold is a genuine talent. She has crafted two films that are near flawless and here has brought a performance from newcomer Katie Jarvis that shows she can take performers to new heights...something that only the very best directors possess.

"Fish Tank" also shows us something about the world we live in. Where politicians make a lot of noise about the society we live in Arnold has, with both of her films, managed to show us what is really happening behind the soundbites. A director with talent and something to say. An original of the species.

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