Written by Andrea Arnold

Directed by Andrea Arnold

 Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender,




Fish Tank



Ordinarily I take the titles of films literally – “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” for example, or “The Godfather,” obviously.  But when a title is a metaphor for the life of the people in the film, as it is in “Fish Tank,” a new English film written and directed by Andrea Arnold, it adds a dimension to what it is we see when we see the film.  Katie Jarvis plays Mia, a 15-year-old who lives in a Council apartment block somewhere outside London.  She is consumed by the chaos in her life, most of it created by her single mother Joanne, who barely looks old enough to have had Katie.  She’s a party girl who likes to party at her own apartment.  Mia finds that the only way she can communicate, with Joanne or anyone else for that matter, is to yell and curse at them.  She drinks whatever she can get, she’s been kicked out of school, she’s insulted by some other girls practicing hip-hop moves on a playground, she can’t allow herself to open up to anyone, she sees a horse tethered to a chain outside some nearby trailers and can’t release it before the boys who own it grab her and tease her.  What she likes to do is practice hip-hop moves by herself in an empty apartment.


What will become of her, as she swims round and round that metaphorical fish tank?  One night her mother brings home a new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender), who seems more relaxed, more mature than the others.  He takes the family on an outing to a lake, where he catches a fish with his hands.  He tucks Mia into bed at night, slowly becoming an object of her affection and desire.  But he and we know he is not what he seems, and the balance of the film is what happens when Mia finds out.


The film won awards as the best British film of 2009, along with a best writer and director for Arnold.  Just released theatrically in the United States, it’s also running as an On-Demand film on your cable company’s listing.  The story is that Arnold found the 18-year-old Katie Jarvis on the station platform at Tilbury, having an argument with her boyfriend.  She also had had a child at 16.  She is a natural, and plays without a moment of self-consciousness through this difficult and bruising film.