Fish Tank - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Fish Tank Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ July 7, 2010
Even though not really original or insightful, the winner of the Cannes Jury Prize in 2009 is a realistic and deeply sad British coming-of-age drama that relies on two terrific performances by Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender.
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2013
Look for this slight British coming-of-age bit that packs a wallop (reminiscent of the kitchen sink productions of the late 50's/early 60's for gritty realism)and don't let it go by as all the actors but especially the newbie director/writer Andrea Arnold delivers the goods in this story about the desire to belong for a young 15 year old wannabe dancer.
Super Reviewer
March 11, 2010
Realist youth drama about a girl from the British underclass who enjoys dancing and little else. The acting is top notch, from the amateurs and protagonist Katie Jarvis to Michael Fassbender who soon became one of the coming Hollywood shooting stars. And so we follow Mia around a lot, from the concrete apartments to a trailer park where an old horse is tied up. That's pretty interesting for the longest time but loses a bit of its path in the end, could have used some trimming as well. Still, an entertaining, disenchanting and raw look at lower class society and the sad outlook today's kids have on life.
Super Reviewer
½ January 19, 2012
Katie Jarvis gave an outstanding performance in this. Not good for a night you need a pick-me-up though. Even if you think that pick-me-up is Michael Fassbender.
Super Reviewer
June 5, 2012
A troubled teen finds hope in dance and aggression everywhere else.
There wasn't a moment during Fish Tank when I didn't think that the camera was following a real person in a troubled life. With the handheld follow shots and the extended takes of Mia walking the streets, the film is shot in a style that is meant to be "real" but isn't; what created the realistic feel were the performances by the leads, especially newcomer Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender. As a character, Mia walks a dangerous line of being remarkably unlikable, and I wouldn't blame many viewers if she crossed that line for them, but for me, Jarvis's performance and the script was able to keep me interested in Mia and keep me hoping for her, which was a challenging task. Mia is written so that everything she does is both senseless and logical (but only within her own emotional and intellectual framework); she's both impetuous and meticulous. Contradictions like these make the character interesting even as her actions make her detestable.
The story is pretty predictable, but I don't think we go into films like these for the plot twists.
Overall, Fish Tank is one of the better adolescent character studies I've seen in a while, and Katie Jarvis could be a promising talent.
Super Reviewer
July 7, 2011
Director Andrea Arnold's debut "Red Road" was a raw and vivid portrayal of a working class Glasgow area. Now she takes us to a working class Essex area with just the same impact and realism.
Ostracised by her friends and excluded from school, Mia (Katie Jarvis) is a lairy teenager living in a high-rise block with her mother and younger sister. One day her mum brings home a charismatic stranger (Michael Fassbender) who shows genuine care for the girl but may also care in ways that will add to already hothouse living conditions.
Directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach are no stranger to exploring dysfunctional families in working class drama's, but now there are several quality directors appearing with voices (and eyes) of their own. Shane Meadows, Peter Mullan and Lynne Ramsey are a few and now Andrea Arnold can count herself as one. This is a simmering drama full of anger, frustration, sexual tension and desire. Katie Jarvis (in her film debut) as the testy teenager, who can't quite contain her emotions, is marvellous in the lead role. Aided by an enigmatic Fassbender. The chemistry between them is key to the whole film working and they both deliver excellent performances. Jarvis has yet to come into her own with further work but it's easy to see why Fassbender is now in high demand. Full of suggestion and supression, this is an intense sexually charged film that director Arnold handles deftly.
As British 'kitchen-sink' drama's go, this can proudly include itself among the finest and Andrea Arnold is without doubt a director for the watching. Powerful stuff.
Super Reviewer
½ September 10, 2011
After hearing mixed reviews for this gritty journey into the true heart of the British teenage life, I was intrigued to see, as I was once a British teenager myself, how well Arnold managed to capture the spirit of what it is to be in the lower chains of British society as a child. I was not disappointed and whilst watching the film I genuinely felt the performances on the part of the adults, but more importantly, felt that Jarvis was stunning, definatley carving out a place for herself in British cinema to come.
Super Reviewer
August 30, 2011
Could be described as a British Neo-Neorealist film with Michael Fassbender. Andrea Arnold impressively follows the plight of a poverty stricken teen and her struggle to stay afloat amid squalid surroundings and miserly people. First off, the acting is absolutely astounding. Especially for a debut performance, Katie Jarvis is not only perfect for the lead role, but seems completely natural on screen with the master himself Michael Fassbender. Secondly, the film looks looks fantastic. The colors look slightly desaturated and although the picture looks crisp and clear, gives the effect that this particular place in Britain is surrounded in a general haze. Although it really steps out of the realm of believability towards the end, it is a very impressive film overall. Since this is my first Arnold film, I will definitely be on the lookout for her work in the future.
Super Reviewer
August 29, 2011
I wasn't all that surprised that Fish Tank was a great movie, but that I was able to empathize with a 15-year-old aspiring hip-hop dancer who fantasizes about having sex with her mom's boyfriend. That's when you know a character is well put together and has a great performance to back it up. Katie Jarvis gave one of those performances that feels completely realistic, but totally shocking that she's not a professional actor and had next to no experience prior. It's almost mind boggling how talented she is when you consider that. The movie could have really failed and not nearly been as engaging without her doing what she did in the role. I felt like this was a real person and the camera was just following her around her neighborhood. Connecting with what could be a repulsive character is also really something that should be addressed. Not only was I really pulling for her to do well at her dance audition, but I honestly found myself agreeing with most of the decisions she made. Michael Fassbender was also pretty flawless here and it's easy to see where a character like his could've gone in a completely different direction if he didn't give the performance he did. The whole relationship with these characters was extremely interesting and puts something like An Education to shame. It's amazing how more realistic and shocking things can get when you take away certain human qualities. Where this dares to go is important and I think it's a brave step. A lot of movies are frightened to address or even play around a taboo subject, but this does it almost effortlessly. Every moment feels natural and that makes it all the more effective to watch. To add to this movie's great characterization and subject matter, it has some amazing cinematography. The way this movie looks is incredible and captures almost a documentary realism with the movement and angels you see. However, the quality of the image is so well put together and beautiful that it doesn't feel cheap and forgettable. The way it captures the backdrop is so important to why the characters and story works the way it does. Without it, you'd only have the content to focus on; which is a total cheat when you're working with a highly visual medium.
Super Reviewer
February 17, 2010
A hard hitting, gritty, and intimate British drama with award caliber performances that is among the best 2010 will have to offer. Great stuff!
Super Reviewer
½ October 16, 2009
Award winning coming-of age drama is a searing full frontal assault into a 15 year old girl's difficult life. Or is that a difficult girl's life? Her hardscrabble world in England is the subject here. From a working class background, she lives with her single mother and foul-mouthed younger sister in decaying government funded public housing. Mia is one tough cookie and has built an emotional wall around herself, not allowing anyone in and certainly not letting any emotions out. Her lone joy is dancing to the American hip hop of artists like Ja Rule and Nas. Then one day her mother's new boyfriend, Connor, enters the picture and from then on, things will never be quite the same. The fish tank is her claustrophobic existence. Director Andrea Arnold forgoes traditional wide screen for a 4:3 aspect ratio, a virtually square frame that goes a long way in highlighting the anxiety within Mia's depressed reality. This is pretty dreary stuff, but the portrait is honest. She's a genuine character, albeit distant, that grows on you. Heretofore unknown actress Katie Jarvis is remarkably natural as the troubled teen. Granted, Mia is partially a victim of her surroundings. She responds admirably to positive encouragement. But she's also consistently sour and it's awkward rooting for her at times. The storyline is intent on always showing us the ugly side of her life. It's raw and while I admire the realism and sincerity of human emotion on display, the script wallows a bit too much in despair. These characters are miserable. One late plot development is a deception so thorough, it feels as if even the viewer has been betrayed. She just can't seem to catch a break. It ends on an unpleasant note and that reaction is what lingers after the film is over.
Super Reviewer
April 29, 2011
For such a simple, almost cliched premise, Fish Tank is a really well made movie. The fish eye lens really clinched that feeling of suffocation.
Super Reviewer
March 19, 2011
Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" is not about destinations, it's about journeys. It's not concerned with drawing lines between good people and bad people. It's about showing people in certain situations and how they react. Her lens is concerned with showing these people as authentic human beings, no matter what they might be hiding behind their guarded exteriors. Michael Fassbender is great here as his progression is risky and ultimately jarring- even if it's somewhat expected. The real find is non-actor Katie Jarvis. Her performance is mesmerizing and nothing short of daring. "Fish Tank" isn't necessarily anything original when it comes to it's overall story arc, but it's gritty and realistic and always gripping.
Super Reviewer
March 18, 2011
Seeing a movie like Fish Tank makes you realize that you can't look to the Oscars to tell you what the best films of the year are.
Where was the best actress nomination for Katie Jarvis?
Or the original screenplay nod to Andrea Arnold, whose writing is as good as her directing. She tells the story of an angst-ridden teen, living in the worst of conditions in an England slum, but she does it through observation. The scene is the scene and viewers may interpret it in different ways.
The characters are heavily flawed, but are also good people. You can sympathize with them, hate them, love them, wish that you could help them, or wish ill on them. Movies like this require an active audience, one that won't be told by a film how to feel. But you will feel something while watching this movie. The story is powerful and completely gripping, a far better film than almost every best picture nominee at the 2011 Oscars.
While it may not always be the case with other films, Fish Tank is a very good reason why the best films you'll ever see are the ones floating under everyone's radar, because these are the films made with a voice, not a studio marketing team.
Super Reviewer
December 18, 2009
I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised with Fish Tank.

It reminded me in some ways of Winter's Bone. Both are about young women growing up in less than the ideal circumstances, with no father around. They're both unflinching in their portrayals of bleak realities, and they both feature excellent performances from the young actresses at the center of the story. Like Jennifer Lawrence, Katie Jarvis is an actress to keep an eye on. The character of Mia could have been easy to dislike or pity, but Katie plays her in a way that let's us keep both her flaws and her good qualities in perspective at all times. It's impressive to watch.

The story starts off simply enough, as we're introduced to Mia, an angry, lonely 15 year old living in council housing in Essex. She loves hip-hop dancing, has a selfish, immature mother, and a younger sister who's clearly being shaped by her environment and parental indifference in the same manner that Mia was. Mia's mother brings home a new man (Michael Fassbender, in another of what's become a string of great roles that have made me a fan), who seems to be a positive influence on the entire family.

That's all the plot synopsis you're getting from me. Some might consider the story depressing, but I found it ultimately (and genuinely) hopeful. It doesn't go in completely unexpected directions, but it's believably honest.

Fish Tank is a prime example of why I love movies. It's more than the sum of its parts. It's an experience that takes me out of my own life for a few hours, and gives me a piece of someone else's. That's a powerful thing.
Super Reviewer
½ February 10, 2011
2009 has seen the release of two excellent European films addressing the subject of adolescence. Sweden's 'Let The Right One In' explored childhood relationships against the backdrop of vampirism and despite having its roots entrenched in horror it was ultimately a beautiful drama about two lost souls who find each other.

'Fish Tank' is much more focused on real-life modern day Britain, as 15 year-old Mia Willams (brilliantly played by newcomer Katie Jarvis) fights a losing battle against life. Mia hates her family, her fellow teenagers and her environment and is in turn hated. She is alienated, disillusioned and angry at life. When asked by her mother's boyfriend Connor what her favourite animal is, she quickly replies 'a white tiger' - an animal which, when caged, perfectly captures the repression and frustration that overwhelms Mia every day.

Desperate for an escape, she ultimately falls for Connor, the only adult who treats her with any degree of respect, and begins trying to claw her way out of her current lifestyle, the ending of the film seemingly positive but essentially ambiguous about whether the grass is ever greener. Like 'Kes' with a female protagonist, Fish Tank is one of the most powerful films that I have ever seen. The interaction between characters is at once convincing and the plot a million miles away from typical Hollywood cliché.
Super Reviewer
January 30, 2011
Back when I was 15 (in the Jurassic epoch) I was angry at just about everything, and I didn't have half the crap to put up with that Mia has to deal with in Fish Tank, the 2009 Cannes Jury Prize winner.

A coming of age story - not really; more of a coming to terms story. Coming to terms with her situation and the limited opportunities offered to a lower class Brit female. She dreams of escaping her alcoholic non caring mother by becoming a successful dancer; practicing in the privacy of a vacant apartment in the shoddily built government high rise she grew up in, while others with the same idea are flaunting their moves in front of the local boys. When she lashes out at them you wonder why, but it all comes full circle later; Mia instinctively understands the difference between dancing for art and dancing for money, as evidenced when she walks off stage before beginning her dance at a strip club audition.

The audition scene is the nexus point of her life. Mia realizes that her dream is simply that; only a dream, so she lowers her sights and settles for plan B - heading off to Wales with a 19 year old mechanic who has expressed an interest in her.

Along the way there is a wonderfully told story of Mia's attraction to one of her mother's beaus, who for a time shares the apartment with Mia's family. What takes place is given time to percolate, thanks to the excellent direction of Andrea Arnold, and the acting chops of Kate Jarvis as Mia, and Michael Fassbender as the boyfriend.

The film's editing could have been enhanced by some better fades, but overall the cinematography on display here is excellent - very up close and intimate when in the apartment, and seemingly distant and detached when outside - giving the viewer a vested interest in the story while sneaking in subliminal feelings of hopelessness. There are several very nice touches; from the almost continual gray skies around the apartment complex to the idyllic blue skies with white puffy clouds that frame the shots of a suburban enclave. A wonderful shot as Mia leaves the strip club audition, having the camera follow her past a multi mirrored wall reflecting back multiply images of her.

The final shots are also noteworthy. Mia looking back over her shoulder as the mechanic drives her away from the apartment building, her younger sister running after them and waving (symbolic of the younger sister also being trapped in the same predicament), and then a cut to the apartment building as a heart-shaped balloon rises above it.

Overall the film is less than perfect, as I felt that the early pacing was a bit slow, especially some of the solitary dancing scenes, but the film certainly held its commitment to its bleak vision and the twisted tale of Mia and her mom's boyfriend were so artfully executed and revealing in so many ways, that I must agree with the Cannes Jury.
Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2009
Dysfunctional family, hard and disturbing (specially for Mia's little sister vocabulary and behavior). Moodysson's "Lilya 4-ever"without the tragic developments. The family moment in the end is authentically touching, but it's not supposed to trick you: "life's a bitch and then you die".

Super Reviewer
½ December 22, 2009
Oh. My. God. Fish Tank was a complete shot in the dark, but it is hands down one of the best films I've seen in quite a while. People say it is not original, which could quite possibly be true. Even so, it still has the ability to captivate and surprise. There were many things I didn't expect and other things that I would have expected that didn't happen. One of the strongest things about the film is that Mia and Connor are very likable characters, but they just keep doing things that you wish they would not. It is really effective filmmaking when you wish they could be swayed, that something else would have happened. Those are the moments when a film has broken beyond the screen and became something more. I really liked the tone, it's sort of subdued and downbeat, but at the same time really vivid and urgent. Fish Tank is the type of film that draws people to the art house. It's about absolutely nothing, yet about everything. It's a slice of an individual's life, but these are decisions we all face. It strives for realism and also contains magic. In other words, it's like seeing the world through the eyes of a gifted artist.
Super Reviewer
½ January 29, 2010
Andrea Arnold had shown her potential in Red Road and her future success was predictable.I liked the realistic atmosphere of the movie and Also like in Red Road cinematography was remarkable.Michael Fassbender's performance was one of the Fish Tank's great points.Definitely one of the best of 2009.
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