Don’t be put off by the dark and depressing backdrop, Fish Tank is surprisingly entertaining. Andrea Arnold’s second feature is far sparkier than the gloomy
Red Road. It still deals with dark subject matter and is set on an equally grim estate but has a vibrant energy and is rich in humour. Granted, a lot of the humour is somewhat “gallows”. For example, the family dog is called Tenents, and her little sister’s swearing is undeniably comical.
Mia is a fifteen year-old, living on an
Essex housing estate with her unloving mother and aforementioned little sister (who also smokes, by the way). Social Services can’t control her and it’s looking like a one-way ticket to Palookaville. The only enjoyment she gets is from dancing. That’s dancing alone, drunk on cider, in empty flats she breaks into. And sorry no, she doesn’t get discovered by an inspiring dance instructor. This isn’t exactly popcorn. Enter her mum’s new squeeze in the shape of Michael Fassbender. He is someone the hardened Mia begins to soften to. Things don’t get much sunnier but it doesn’t descend into cliché. The tension builds and you never know which way the action is going to lead. At least this reviewer didn’t.
Everyone in it is superb and the director should be commended on drawing great performances from at least two novices in the cast. She also accords her subject matter a dignity and respect, never once mocking or exploiting.