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LAist Movie Review: Fish Tank

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Katie Jarvis as Mia. Photo courtesy IFC Films.

Andrea Arnold certainly knows how to speed things up. The British writer/director wasted no time in making the leap from critically acclaimed short film (the Oscar-winning Wasp) to freshman feature film (Cannes Grand Jury Prize-winning Red Road). Yet, with her sophomore film Fish Tank, Arnold proves she’s definitely not moving too fast.

Both in story and scope, Fish Tank is a slow-burning British feature that was the Grand Jury darling of Cannes, but will inevitably be confined to the dusty art houses that none of us visit enough. Mia, the pugnacious 15-year old heroine (played effortlessly and immaculately by newcomer Katie Jarvis) is the sort of hard-talking, foul-mouthed youth we’ve almost come to expect from this type of UK gritty character expose. But with her, the harsh language and penchant for headbutting are a thin front for a loneliness brought on by crumbling social circumstances and the general awkwardness of youth. Between bouts of alcoholism and general non-existence, Mia’s mother manages to bring home a new boyfriend, who quickly finds eyes for young Mia. As new beau Connor continues to court the mother, his ever-so-slightly flirtatious physicality and temperament with Mia slowly become reciprocal. Now deeply involved, Mia must decide between her roughshod exterior and a more vulnerable inside that underscores just how young she really is. And when things begin to fall apart and Mia chooses to act (in particularly egregious yet believable ways), the audience is left to wonder if she is truly beginning to act like a woman (albeit an unstable one), or if older women in her situation simply come down to that level.