I’ve been hearing about Fish Tank for months. More often than not, it was through the words of an enthusiastic reviewer of the film. In fact, a number of important people (important to me, at least) were generally positive about it like Jose, Hatter, Tim, Nick. I’ve seen Fish Tank for some time now, but nothing’s coming. What is Fish Tank about? A sixteen year old girl, and would-be dancer, meanders through life culminating in a crush on her mother’s latest boyfriend. I can’t write about Fish Tank, or rather my issue with it without revealing plot details so SPOILERS ABOUND. Be warned.
I also can’t talk of Fish Tank without thinking about An Education – I film I fell for last year. Both films are directed by women, both focus on a sixteen year old Briton, both girls fall for older married men and both girls believe in the infallibleness of their brains. Of course, they differ in styles – completely. An Education sedateness (often mistook for unoriginality) differs starkly when measured againt Fish Tank’s shaky camera and general penchant to impose itself on us, almost like a real person. I don’t have an issue with the style, but truthfully I’m confused as to why Arnold’s choice of shooting in “real time” makes her such a wonder. To be certain, she is skilled equally as a writer and director, but she’s far from flawless on both counts. During the film, I was often moved to doubt the validity of these characters. It’s ironic, really, Fish Tank prides itself on being as authentic as can be but I often felt it to be just as pretentious, at times. Incidentally, it’s an issue I had with Precious - sometimes in her predilection for showing the harsh reality Arnold comes off (to me) as someone intent on shocking us and failing to attach it to any narrative progression. Furthermore, a particular scene in the marshes though ostensibly thrilling does nothing that makes it particularly necessary to the narrative as far as I see.
It’s crass to focus the entire review on finding fault with Fish Tank since it’s not wholly without accomplishments. Jose was quite enamoured with Fassbender’s performance, and he is good. But my issues with the narrative prevent me from being particularly moved by him. It’s to his credit, though, of the entire cast he’s the one who’s able to portray the most while saying the least. He has a knack for adroit facial expressions which few actors could profess to. We know what he’s up to even before he makes any noteworthy decision to do it. Moreover, he manages to prevent himself from becoming a villain just as Sarsgaard before him. In the same way, can we help but compare Katie Jarvis to Carey Mulligan? I suppose, you can assume where I stand on that issue – you’d be right. Jarvis does fine, though I never believe that she’s really interested in dancing – or Connor for that matter. Perhaps it’s an inclination of her character, but she seems unmoved by everything around her, a pivotal moment of tears towards the end leaves me more confused than moved. Incidentally, it’s Kierston Wareing who emerges as the cast’s strongpoint for me – even as she’s given little do, and all in broad strokes - trumping another similarly psycho mother. She’s not a caricature and underneath her pedestrian behaviour (in more ways than one) Wareing is carving a real character – just look at her final scene.
It’s weird, after Hatter’s review I said that despite all the good I’d heard I didn’t think I would like Fish Tank, but I couldn’t say why. I still can’t put my finger precisely on what doesn’t work for me, though I’ve tried. But despite my issue, it’s still a fairly good venture from those involved. I wonder how you’ll feel when you see it…
The lone mixed review I recall was Danny...
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