FISH TANK: wisdom in a teenager

One of the more interesting characters on the screen right now is the angry, vulnerable and directionless Mia (Katie Jarvis) in the British film FISH TANK, directed by Andrea Arnold (currently screening at IFC Center). A 15 year old girl clothed in baggy sweat suits, Mia spends her free time drinking liquor and practicing awkward dance moves by herself. She’s looking for expression and it spills out through her rage as she tumbles through mistakes and near scrapes with disaster with a kind of tough resilience that would make you want to hug her… if you weren’t worried about her breaking your nose.

The story focuses on Mia’s discovery of a much needed father figure in her mother’s new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender). Connor is kind to her and takes an interest that seems genuine at first until their relationship begins to move into uncomfortable territory and they have sex. When he disappears, Mia goes after him with the kind of zeal that would put most stalkers to shame. Without spoiling it, let’s just say things go very wrong but they could have been much much worse. Many filmmakers would have been tempted to go for the darkest moment possible, to give the story more weight and finality, but instead we are left at the end with the skillful balance of a little hope and a huge collective sigh of relief, without it feeling sticky or contrived.

As I walked out of the theater I kept thinking that these are the stories that we never hear about…. that happen all the time. These are the stories where right before someone’s life is about to hurtle sensationally off a cliff, they hit the brakes and turn around awkwardly. Bruised and embarrassed, ashamed and angry, and a bit wiser, they try to find a new path. This film has the wisdom born of real life.

See the trailer here: