In Contention‘s Guy Lodge has written that U.S. audiences are going to have “wait indefinitely” to see Andrea Arnold‘s Fish Tank. The reason, as I wrote in my Cannes review, is that it’s “basically a female Billy Elliot with no hope, no shot, no Julie Walters to teach and encourage, no father willing to break his back in order to pay for his child’s education at a London arts academy, no Marc Bolan singing ‘I Love To Boogie’…none of that.”
Fish Tank “is extremely well captured with a powerhouse performance by Jarvis, but it’s all about the shit end of the stick.
“The story is about how Mia (Katie Jarvis) gets it in her head that her mom’s new boyfriend, a handsome, good natured security guard named Connor (Michael Fassbender), may have a bit of what she needs. A friendly smile, a kindly attitude, a positive paternal-ish influence. And for a while he seems like a good thing, especially with his encouragements about Mia’s dancing, which he says is ‘great.’ And then you know what happens. If you can’t guess you need to think harder.
“The grimness in Fish Tank is, I think, vaguely similar to the mood and material in Tony Richardson‘s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. Tom Courtenay played an angry resentful teen who winds up in a borstal for thievery, but his ace in the hole — i.e., being a good long-distance runner — is used to deliver a jolting dramatic turn at the finale, one that said something profound about nihilism among working-class youths of the early ’60s.
“Fish Tank‘s story never even begins to build into anything remotely similar. It pretty much stays in the pit from start to finish.”