You don't expect to find movie gold in the January cesspool. That's what makes Fish Tank an exhilarating gift. Katie Jarvis, 18, hits you like a shot in the heart with her sensational breakout performance. And cheers to director Andrea Arnold, who flies on her own unerring instincts. On the surface, the film is pat melodrama, as 15-year-old Mia (Jarvis) acts out hostilities about being raised in the London projects by a single mom(Kierston Wareing) too driven by her own libido to worry about Mia and her sister (Rebecca Griffiths).
That's when pat turns to pow. Get up in Mia's face, and she'll clock you. Hip-hop dancing is Mia's only goal until her mom's new stud, Connor (Michael Fassbender), develops an unhealthy interest. The electrifying Fassbender, so good in Hunger and Inglourious Basterds, nails every nuance in a complex role. His scenes with Jarvis have a hypnotic sexualenergy. And while you're remembering new high-impact names, add Arnold. In only her second film, after 2006's Red Road, she keeps the screen filled to bursting with the beauty and raw terror of life.