You can rewatch Rebel Without a Cause and The 400 Blows, even Fast Times at Ridgemont High all you want, but it’s likely you’ve never seen anything that goes to the level of Fish Tank, Andrea Arnold’s insightful look into the life of a bitter, jaded British youth unconcerned with finding a direction to go in. Fish Tank is an angry film, as angry and headstrong as its main character, a portal into a world of teenage angst and rebellion the likes of which are rarely done so fully and completely.
Our main character, Mia, does what she pleases, and fuck all that might stand in her way or try to bring her down. Aside from an interest in hip-hop dancing, there’s really very little she gives a crap about, and wears her anger on her sleeves without care as to who sees. After a while of watching it, I found myself becoming more intrigued by the inter-personal relationships between Mia and her mom, her sister, her mom’s new boyfriend, and everyone else she interacts with. The whole thing, for me, became an interesting expose into the various environments and mentalities that produce such against-the-wall, rebellious, angry youth and why they act the way they do. The film is of the Steadicam, fly-on-the-wall variety, following Mia around as she lives her life and does her thing, encountering various people along the way, most of which she rebukes with little care toward any consequences. Steadily, her relationships with the various characters around her grow more complicated, and the film handles the material with surprising grace and touch, notwithstanding the actions and reactions of Mia herself.
This is an odd film to classify, as it really didn’t need to be made, but once you see it, you can’t help but feel that it was worth the watch. It’s a journey Mia, and us, needed to take, and we both come out changed on the other side. It’s a coming-of-age tale unlike any other coming-of-age film out there, and it has a startling depth to it that is well disguised under a veneer of crassness and attitude. Don’t take this film at surface level; it’s got a lot more working under the hood than that, and if you’re willing to dive into uncomfortable waters, you’ll find a well done and emotionally satisfying trip that leaves the door wide open for personal interpretation.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10