Mia (Katie Jarvis) lives on an estate in Essex. Having just been kicked out of school, she spends her days lounging around and wandering the streets. Mia’s passion for street dance goes unnoticed by her mother (Kierston Wareing), as she is generally unconcerned about what Mia gets up to, because she spends her days in a drunken slumber. Mia’s little sister, Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths) is also an ASBO waiting to develop, but she has the best one-liners. Mia’s household is one incapable of expressing love; Mia’s mother constantly berates Mia, and Tyler probably doesn’t even know what the word is, lost amongst the tide of expletives she spits out daily.
One day Mia’s mother brings home a new man, Connor (Michael Fassbender). Connor is just what Mia has been missing. He pays attention to her, ‘you dance like a black – I meant that as a compliment’ (hahahaha). He fills the father role that Mia so obviously needs. However, this ‘father figure’ is a new experience for Mia, and her confusion is evident as the relationship her and Connor have takes a sinister turn…
Katie Jarvis had never acted before Fish Tank; she got this role through a chance meeting with the casting director who saw her having an argument with her boyfriend in Essex. Jarvis is naturally talented; she manages to pull off a convincing performance as Mia, able to show Mia’s vulnerability beneath her foul language.
Fish Tank is a slow-burner, minutes pass by without any dialogue. However, instead of this being a weakness, it is a strength, as this is done is such a way that the film does not become boring. There are pretty shots of Essex also, which is remarkable as that area is… well it’s no utopia. Director Andrea Arnold manages to show factors that affect young people who come from low earning families without being patronising or being over the top. It’s a fine line, but she walks all over it.