Thursday, March 10, 2011

Movie of
the Month:
Part 26

I recently
the follow-
ing DVD for
Video Lib-
, and thought the results were worth sharing.

FISH TANK - The Criterion Collection [****]
(Andrea Arnold, UK, 2009, 122 mins.)

Britain's Andrea Arnold won a best live-action Oscar for the
2003 short film Wasp, but she takes her intimate technique to a
whole new level with Fish Tank. Newcomer Katie Jarvis plays
15-year-old Mia, who lives in the projects of Essex with her trash-
talking sister and party-girl mother, Joanne (Ken Loach veteran
Kierston Waering). It isn't an easy life, but she finds release by
dancing to hip-hop, which she hopes to do professionally.

Around the time Joanne starts spending time with charming Irish
immigrant Connor (Michael Fassbender in an effortlessly se-
ductive performance), Mia becomes fixated on a white horse who
spends its days chained to an empty lot. Whether she recognizes
the broken-down beast as a kindred spirit or not--it recalls Bres-
son's Balthazar--Mia's life isn't much different. With a lack of ed-
ucation and opportunity, she may never escape the slums.

Desperate for affection, she flirts with Connor, who flirts back,
innocently at first. She pushes further and so does he, until the
night he crosses a line. Soon, and in an entirely different way, she
becomes as obsessed with the man as the horse, but the danger
she faces in trying to free the creature is nothing compared to
the danger she represents in trying to punish the man.

Fish Tank begins as a social-realist character study before Ar-
nold shifts gears into thriller territory. In the untrained Jarvis's
hands, Mia remains sympathetic even as she gives in to her bas-
er instincts, but the director doesn't withhold hope, and her film-
making is looser and sexier than in her grim, if gripping debut,
Red Road
. Supplements include interviews with Waering (vi-
deo) and Fassbender (audio only), three shorts (Milk, Dog, and
), and an essay by Ian Christie. Highest recommendation.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part 25: Still Bill

Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text. Jane Eyre,
which features Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska, opens at the
Egyptian on Friday, 3/18. Image from Reverse Shot via IFC.

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