‘Fish Tank’ review: A gritty film about the sucky life of Britain’s working class

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September 19, 2013 by Hope W.

Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank

Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank

Fish Tank is a small British film that Michael Fassbender did back in 2009. It is also one of the grittiest and most horrifying films I’ve ever watched — in that it is about people with sucky lives making monumentally bad decisions that leave you gaping in horror. A viewer commented on tumblr that it was so hard watching someone’s life suck so bad. And it really is.

(This post is full of spoilers for the movie, so if you are intending to ever watch it and don’t want to know what happens, you can stop reading now.)

15-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis), her uncaring mother and her younger sister live in a poor, working class neighbourhood. She is a delinquent in every sense of the word with terrible attitude problems — with her mother and her younger sister not faring any better on that scale — and only her love for dance is keeping her afloat in this awful life that they are all living.

One day, her mother takes on a lover, Connor (played by Michael Fassbender), who is really hot and seems to be a genuinely good guy. He brings the family for outings in his car, is really nice to Mia, and encourages her in her passion for dancing, telling her she is good and loaning her a camcorder so she can send in a tape for a dance audition. Naturally, she is drawn to him — because she’s 15, and he’s hot, and he’s probably the first guy to ever be nice to her, and it doesn’t help that she keeps hearing her mother have sex with him. She is even morbidly curious enough to peek once while they are doing it.

Mia, seen here staring in wonder at his half-nakedness

Mia, seen here staring in wonder at Connor’s half-nakedness

And you think that Connor is genuine and all, and then he does the unforgivable — a scene which I watched in horror while exclaiming “What are you doing?!” — and has sex with her. And then he moves out of their house the very next day. But even then, you could *almost*, *almost* forgive him for screwing her – and her mum – over, because he was drunk (though that is NEVER an excuse for such things), and he showed some form of guilt when Mia hunts him down to where he lives. You think it’s because she is underage and he knows that it is wrong, because he seems sensible enough to know that; but then afterwards, you find out, along with Mia, that he actually has a wife and a young daughter in a nice neighbourhood, which just upends all that you thought you knew about him.

This sets off probably the most suspenseful sequence in the whole film, where in revenge, Mia lures his daughter away into some desolate grassland; and every moment that passes, you become more and more horrified as you wonder if she is actually going to leave her there and then run off. It culminates almost self-fulfillingly when she nearly drowns the girl in a lake, albeit by accident. Thankfully, she doesn’t actually have a murderous intent, and so she saves her and returns her home safely. Connor later comes chasing after her in the dark, but leaves after hitting her. Which she admittedly deserves, but that doesn’t mitigate the fact that he’s an asshole of the highest degree, which is also maybe why he only hits her once and then leaves — because he knows that — instead of almost murdering her, which any other person might have done if someone endangered their children.

Even after Connor leaves, Mia’s life doesn’t change. She had hopes that her dance audition will lead to something better, but it turns out that it was for some sleazy club instead, so she leaves without auditioning. At the end of the movie, she leaves home to go to Wales with a fairly decent teenage boy from the same neighbourhood that she meets during the course of the movie. We are left wondering if she will eventually get out of this crappy life. Probably not, with all her faults and her penchant for making bad decisions, but perhaps she will lead a slightly less crappy life. One can only hope.


Michael Fassbender has *got* to stop picking this kind of sad, sack-of-shit roles. I know he’s great at them, but really, please, do something else? Where his characters don’t make morally questionable decisions? Do a musical or something. Be Captain von Trapp in a remake of The Sound of Music or something; just do a film where he has a slight possibility of happiness. He doesn’t even have to do a rom-com! Just do something not so depressing! *end rant*

And no, Jane Eyre doesn't count, because it is one of the bleakest books I ever gave up on reading, and I have no intention of ever watching it. One of the reasons being their horrible hairstyles.

And no, Jane Eyre doesn’t count, because it is one of the bleakest books I ever gave up on reading, and I have no intention of ever watching it. Also, they have horrible hairstyles in the film.


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