Another grey-sky Brit wristslitter set on an Essex council estate. Yeah, we know what you’re thinking about Fish Tank. But the film you probably missed this year is the film you can’t afford to.
Powerful, punishing, funny, beautifully observed… It’s easy to lob adjectives at writer/director Andrea Arnold’s second movie. So let’s come out and say it. Best British film of the year? Definitely. Best film of the year? Definitely maybe.
Swaggering off the blocks with swearing, cider-drinking and angst, Fish Tank tracks in on 15-year-old Essex girl Mia (non-pro newcomer Katie Jarvis), who dreams of becoming a hip-hop dancer while finding herself drawn towards her single mum’s (Kierston Wareing) new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender).
Trapped in claustrophobic council flats and lost in wide-open spaces as growing pains and sexual heat start throbbing, Jarvis’ tower-block teen helps Fish Tank feel like the tastiest drama the Dardenne brothers never made.
It’s her stunning debut that drives the film, sparking perilous chemistry with Fassbender and riffing off Arnold’s spiky naturalism, urgent energy and subtly artful direction.
Every three years, Arnold does something special: an Oscar for her short film Wasp (see it on YouTube), a Cannes Jury Prize for her feature debut Red Road and now this. What makes Fish Tank even more thrilling is that it keeps going where most would stop.
There were others as raw, painful and poetic this year. But very, very few.
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