Fish Tank (2009)

Fish Tank – gritty British film review


To give you a brief idea about Fish Tank it is a low budget, gritty Brit drama and main actress Katie Jarvis was discovered by director Andrea Arnold whilst arguing with her boyfriend at Tilbury train station. She had no previous acting experience.

The story centres around Mia, an aggressive young girl from an East London council estate. We are shown early on that life is far from pleasant for Mia, who head butts another girl within ten minutes of the film starting. Her mum (Kierston Wareing) seems to care little for her and the place where she lives is drab, violent and to be honest – full of losers.

Mia relies on her hip hop dancing and bottles of cheap cider to keep her spirits up. Apart from dancing she seems to have no real direction or support from anyone. Such is life. The film then takes a turn in a compelling new direction after Mia’s mother brings home her mysterious new boyfriend Connor – played by Michael Fassbender.


So firstly what’s right with it? Well it’s watchable. It appealed to me because it’s set close to where I live in Essex (though I’m more countryside bound dahhling). Michael Fassbender is one of my favourite actors and I’d never turn down a British drama.

All the actors/actresses played their parts well and as the film progresses, you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen (and if you’re like me, you may find the constant swearing and arguing quite funny). It also plays the Bobby Womack cover of California Dreamin’ a lot, like the anthem of the movie. I love this song! So that was fine with me. 

But…..what’s wrong with it? Well it is rather cliché. I mean, not everyone who lives on a council estate drinks, smokes and uses the C word (cunt) as a form of daily expression. But this film would have us believe that. I got the feeling director Andrea Arnold may have been from Sandwich (a posh place in Kent) or somewhere and made this film as her art project or something. The poor council estate people! But investigation into Wiki shows she did come from a working class background… Kent (near Sandwich).

It is also overly long at 120 minutes, it could have been 90 minutes easily. It’s also quite depressing and has some cringey moments. Though it is the sort of film that undoubtedly will get good critical acclaim (I think it faired well at Cannes) and make the audience think maaaan. But to be honest I think there other, similar films out there that do this without so much cliché stereotyping and dare I say, almost pretentious film making. 

If you’re thinking about watching Fish Tank I’d say sure, go for it! It’s an entertaining, if slightly long, movie that is certainly worth watching once. I didn’t mean to sound as though I hated it, I didn’t hate it and I’ll probably watch it again in a couple of years but the negatives probably did stand out in my memory, more than the positives.


About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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37 Responses to Fish Tank (2009)

  1. I remember the trailers for this and then it disappeared. Might check it out for the heck of it. Nice review as always. (I’m catching up on your posts).

  2. vinnieh says:

    Interesting review Emma, I may have to check it out to see what I think of it.

  3. robbinsrealm says:

    Well written review, which contained interesting observations throughout.

    I came across Fish Tank a year or so ago on Netflix, and had remembered hearing the story about how Katie Jarvis was discovered while having an argument with her boyfriend. I proceeded to watch the film, and was very impressed by the performance Jarvis gave; I felt she really immersed herself in the role. I was further surprised, when none other than Magneto himself, Michael Fassbender, showed up in the movie. That was an added bonus for me because I think he is one of the best working actors out there these days.

    I can see how the film loses points with you for being too cliché. I used to live in New York, and for a time I worked in a rather rough area. I know for a fact, however, that the majority of people who lived in that particular location didn’t engage in gang violence, nor were they interested in the consumption of, or selling of drugs. In fact, there were a number of friendly people in the neighborhood, who I used to see and speak to on my way to or coming back from work, or during my lunch hour, that were trying to do what they could to improve the quality of life around them.

    I didn’t realize the runtime of the film clocked in at two hours until you mentioned it in your blog. I have to say it didn’t feel overly long while I was watching it, but perhaps, if I sat down to re-watch it, I would notice it drag a great deal more, because I would already be familiar with what is going to transpire.

    • emmakwall says:

      Thanks for such great and interesting feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed the film and my review 🙂

      I think I’ve watched similar but better films in the past and that swayed my judgement. I certainly found it quite stereotyped. It’s a fair film.

      Your Magneto comment really made me chuckle 🙂

  4. I keep reading about it lately-I must get to it.

  5. theipc says:


    I doubt I’ll give this a go……..

  6. Laura says:

    This is a thought provoking, well made drama but I found this subject matter so utterly depressing that it bordered on wretched. Great performances, though. Great review.

  7. Great insightful review Emma 🙂 I think I’ll give this a pass even though itvhas Michael Fassbender in it.

  8. movierob says:


    Keep doing things the way you like doing them.

    I’m the last person who would tell anyone how to speak their minds and write their reviews as they so choose.

    Lets make a deal, you keep writing the way you want and I’ll keep reading it (and hopefully commenting on it) 🙂

    • emmakwall says:

      It’s okay, I was lying anyway 🙂

      No not really, but I do want to review the way I review anyway because big long paragraphs of text, I know people must skim read it and I don’t blame them at all if they do (I do it too!)

      Deal! I wasn’t being argumentative anyway, well maybe a little, but not in a nasty or pissed off way. I appreciate the time you take commenting and liking my posts, it means a lot to me.

      Ahhhhh……….guys! Feel the love! ❤


  9. movierob says:

    oh god, I saw this last month and HATED it!!! I found it to be terrible.

    Glad someone else got a chance to like it tho

    • emmakwall says:

      I’m quite surprised you read my review and thought I liked it?

      I thought I came across quite negative mentioning many sore points, clichés and recommending better movies 🙂

      • movierob says:

        yeah, but you still recommended that people should watch it 🙂

        I saw the negative stuff u wrote, but you also said you didnt hate it and will eventually rewatch it.

        I usually dont have any desire to rewatch a movie that I hated so much 🙂

        • emmakwall says:

          Well I didn’t really recommend it. I just said if you’re thinking about watching it, go for it – it’s watchable and entertaining enough to watch at least once.

          I don’t really slate any film that much, as I realise my opinion is not objective compared to anyone else’s – but I do like to give my view on how I felt the movie was 🙂 in as fair a way as possible.

          Fish Tank was disappointing to me and I think that came across in my review. But it did get a lot of critical acclaim and good reviews so people must have enjoyed it. But I watch a lot of ‘gritty’ (for lack of a better word!) films and I found this to be far more cliché and pretentious than the kind of stuff I like.

          I didn’t hate it, it was okay – and I would be more than happy to watch it in again in a couple of years, as stated 🙂

          Thanks for your points though! I may think about how my reviews come across in the future.

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