Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/596/8224
Fish Tank directed by Andrea Arnold
Reviewed by Sarah Sachs-Eldridge
In the opening pages of My Life Leon Trotsky denounces the saccharine image of childhood that features in much fiction, saying that, in reality, it's not so easy for most people. This film presents some of that reality, although in a somewhat symbolic and also in a one-sided way.
Fish Tank, as the title suggests, allows us to watch excerpts from the life of Mia, a young working-class woman, living in Dagenham, east London. Filmed in a gritty documentary style in the main, there are beautiful dreamlike moments, where the pace of the camera work slows right down and you are reminded that this is illustration, not sociology.
The film depicts some of the frustration of life for working-class young people. Mia loves to dance. In fact, throughout the film more expression comes through her dancing than the actual words she speaks. But the only outlet on offer for her talent is a sleazy club. She has no hope that social services has any understanding of the aspirations she harbours, or means to help her fulfil them.
In many ways Fish Tank is a cinematic breath of fresh air, a film that doesn't rely on millionaire actors, inches deep in make up and liposuctioned within an inch of their life. Katie Jarvis who plays Mia was spotted on a station platform. The background is not the usual stuff we are accustomed to either - tower blocks, traveller encampments, wasteland and industrial estates form the background.
But we live in a society where the media-promoted image of working-class people is often of violence and drunkenness and this film does not completely dispel that. Every film is not required to portray 'happy families' but it is frustrating that an attempt to represent working-class people rejects any reference to struggle, to trade unionism, to working-class solidarity.
Will we see more attempts to show how the majority live? Are opportunities for working-class people to participate in producing art diminishing in the recession?
Much more could be said about this film - and it is definitely worth watching.
In The Socialist 7 October 2009:
War and occupation
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis