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January 10, 2010

FISH TANK

FishTankIn her second film Andrea Arnold displays a deep engagement with her story of a suburban 15-year-old British girl seduced by her mother's lover. Tough-girl Mia (well played by Katie Jarvis) lives in an Essex housing project with her indiscriminate mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing) and younger sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths).

Mia never wears anything other than sweats and a hoody. She hip-hop dances alone in an empty apartment living room with a balcony overlooking the industrial wasteland around her. Mia uses dance to ground her identity even though her rapidly changing body is clumsier than she imagines. Trouble arrives in the form of her mom's seemingly innocuous boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender). Connor sizes up Mia with the accuracy of a sharpshooter. Liberation, romance, coming-of-age, and familial cause-and-effect are all themes at play. As a filmmaker Arnold strips away artifice by allowing her actors' performances to take center stage.

Colesmithey.com

There is a verité quality in the way cinematographer Robbie Ryan frames compositions at unconventionally impromptu angles using natural light. Uncommonly naturalistic performances by the ensemble cast add to this film's kinship to works from British neorealist directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. As an example of modern British social satire, "Fish Tank" is a stellar addition.

Unrated. 122 mins. (A-) (Four Stars - out-of-five/no-halves)

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