Fish Tank (film)
Fish Tank is a 2009 British drama film written and directed by Andrea Arnold. The film is about Mia Williams, a volatile and socially isolated 15-year-old who lives with her single mother, Joanne. The mother's new boyfriend, Conor, becomes a person of intrigue to Mia, which results in an illicit affair, as well as the heartbreaking revelation that Conor is not entirely what he seems. Fish Tank was well-received and won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It also won the 2010 BAFTA for Best British Film. It was filmed in the Mardyke Estate in Havering, the town of Rainham, and the A13, and funded by BBC Films and the UK Film Council. The film was theatrically released on 11 September 2009 by Curzon Artificial Eye. Fish Tank featured on BBC's The 21st Century's 100 greatest films, ranking 65th on the list.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Andrea Arnold|
|Written by||Andrea Arnold|
|Music by||Steel Pulse|
|Edited by||Nicolas Chaudeurge|
|Distributed by||Curzon Artificial Eye|
|Box office||$5.9 million|
Mia Williams is a volatile and socially isolated 15-year-old. She lives on an East London council estate with her single mother, Joanne, and younger sister, Tyler, and is highly antagonistic toward both of them. Mia is a loner, appearing to have had a falling out with her best friend, Keely. She provokes Keely's other friends, criticizes their dance routine, and head butts another girl. Mia regularly practices hip-hop dance alone in a deserted flat.
Near the estate, Mia comes across a skinny, tethered horse in a Traveller encampment. She tries to free it, only to be caught, taunted, and assaulted by two young men, the horse's owners. A third young man, Billy, the brother of the other two, is more sympathetic. He shows kindness towards Mia and explains that the horse is old and ill.
Joanne's new boyfriend, Conor O'Reily, is a charming and handsome Irishman. He compliments Mia on her dance moves, and invites Mia and Tyler to come with him and Joanne on a day-trip into the countryside. He introduces them to his favourite song, Bobby Womack's version of "California Dreamin'", and shows Mia how to catch a fish using his bare hands. Although Mia is abrupt with Conor, she appears to be intrigued by him.
At an internet café, Mia watches amateur breakdancing videos on YouTube. As she is leaving, she takes a leaflet for a club seeking dancers. Keely's friends enter and they exchange taunts. With Billy, she sneaks into a junkyard, where Billy steals a car engine part. She visits Conor at the hardware store where he works as a security guard. Conor encourages her to apply for the dancing audition, and lends her a video camera to record an audition tape. Their interactions become increasingly flirtatious. Conor puts on cologne and leans into Mia, asking her what she thinks of it. He then suddenly administers a spanking to her under the pretext of punishment for running off when a social worker came to visit. One night Mia secretly witnesses Conor and Joanne having sex. Mia goes back to her room, slamming her door several times.
Mia sends in her tape and is invited by the club to perform in person. Late one night, with Joanne passed out drunk upstairs, and after Mia and Conor have also been drinking, Conor asks to see her dance routine in the living room. She dances to "California Dreamin'", and Conor then invites her to sit next to him – which leads to them having sex. Before returning to Joanne's bedroom, Conor tells Mia to keep their liaison a secret. The following morning, Mia hears her mother crying: Tyler tells her that Conor has left. Mia tracks him down to his home in Chadwell St Mary and confronts him. He explains that he cannot see her any more because of her age. He drives her to Tilbury Town railway station and provides her fare. However, Mia returns to his house and sneaks in through the house's back window. She finds a video camera – and, on it, footage revealing that Conor has a wife and young daughter, Keira. In shocked protest, Mia urinates on the living room floor; and then, hearing the family return, sneaks out of the back door.
Mia watches Keira riding her scooter outside the house, and impulsively pressures her to come with her, supposedly for ice cream, under the pretense that Keira's mother had suggested it. They walk across the fields to the River Thames, at which point Keira tries to escape. Mia catches up with her, but in the struggle inadvertently pushes her into the turbulent water. Keira disappears but resurfaces, and Mia pulls her out and takes her home. She then sets off for her own home, but as she is walking along the street, Conor's car screeches to a halt beside her. Mia runs away and Conor chases her across a field: when he catches up with her, he slaps her, knocking her to the ground, and then walks away without saying a word.
The next day, Mia goes to her audition. It is immediately obvious that it is for erotic dancers. The other participants are all grown women wearing heavy makeup and provocative clothing. Mia takes the stage wearing a hoodie, but as the music starts walks off without performing her routine.
Mia goes in search of Billy. When she arrives at his place, Billy tells her that the horse had to be put down. Mia sinks to the ground in tears. Billy says he is moving to Cardiff, and invites Mia to join him. She returns home to pack. Her mother tells her "go on then, fuck off" by way of a goodbye. Mia, for once not lashing back, silently joins Joanne in dancing to Nas' "Life's a Bitch", matching her movements. Tyler joins them. Mia goes to Billy's car after hugging Tyler goodbye. The two set off for Wales as Tyler chases after the car.
Katie Jarvis, who plays Mia, had no prior acting experience. She was cast for the film after one of Arnold's casting assistants saw her arguing with her boyfriend in Tilbury Town, which is the railway station featured in the film.
Principal photography began 28 July 2008 over the course of six weeks, and was filmed in chronological order. At the end of each week the actors were given the scripts for the scenes that they would perform the following week, so that when they performed each scene they were largely unaware of what would happen to their characters later in the film.
Music features prominently in the film, particularly connected with Mia's dancing. The song she uses at her audition is "California Dreamin'", as covered by Bobby Womack (1968). The CD she borrows from Conor is The Best of Bobby Womack (2008), on which "California Dreamin'" appears on track 17, as Mia requests. Towards the beginning of the film, the song "Me & U" by Cassie is also used and the video for Down 4 U by Ja Rule and Ashanti is watched by Mia when she first meets Conor. Other songs include "Jah Rule (w/ Paul St. Hilaire)" by Rhythm & Sound (Album: W/The Artists), "Life's a Bitch" by Nas, "Just to Get a Rep" by Gang Starr, "Cool Down the Pace" by Gregory Isaacs, "Your House" by Steel Pulse, "Juice" by Eric B and Rakim, "Baby girl" by Wiley, "Show Me Love" (Stonebridge Club Mix) by Robin S, "Get Up Offa That Thing" by James Brown, "In The Fading Light" by New Device, and "Original Nuttah" by Shy FX & UK Apache.
The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on 14 May 2009. Curzon Artificial Eye and IFC Films acquired United Kingdom and United States distribution rights to the film respectively. The film went onto screen at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was released in the United Kingdom on 11 September 2009. It was then released in the United States on 15 January 2010.
Rotten Tomatoes reports that 91% of critics reviewed the film positively, based on a sample of 143 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6 out of 10. The consensus states "Cannes Jury Prize-winner Fish Tank is gritty British realism at its very best, with flawless performances from newcomer Kate Jarvis, and Michael Fassbender." The New Yorker's David Denby writes, "Fish Tank may begin as a patch of lower-class chaos, but it turns into a commanding, emotionally satisfying movie, comparable to such youth-in-trouble classics as The 400 Blows".
Fish Tank was released domestically on 11 September 2009 taking £103,180 on its first weekend and a total of £332,488. As of 15 June 2010, the film earned $374,675 in the United States and $1,612,034 elsewhere, bringing the worldwide total to $1,986,709.
A new high-definition digital transfer of the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection in February 2011. Extras include three short films by director Andrea Arnold: Milk (1998), Dog (2001), and the Oscar-winning Wasp (2003).
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