British director Andrea Arnold won an Oscar in 2005 for her short film Wasp and she made an arresting feature debut the following year with her Glasgow-set suspense thriller Red Road, which scooped the Prix du Jury at Cannes in 2006. Fish Tank, her new film (again a Prix du Jury winner), is even more impressive, a gritty, gripping drama that boasts a terrific performance by newcomer Katie Jarvis.
Jarvis – discovered by a casting agent while having a furious row with her boyfriend at Tilbury railway station – plays sullen, headstrong 15-year-old Mia, who lives on a barren Essex housing estate with her boozy single mother (Kierston Wareing) and lippy younger sister (Rebecca Griffiths).
Excluded from school for fighting, Mia is a tightly wound ball of anger and resentment. She has vague dreams of becoming a hip-hop dancer, and practices by herself in an empty flat in her block, but her life is going nowhere until her mother brings home her new boyfriend, handsome, charismatic Irishman Connor (Michael Fassbender, whose versatility this year is scary: see his roles in Hunger and Inglourious Basterds).
Connor shows Mia encouragement, something she’s clearly never known before, and she slowly begins to soften and open up, but what could be a budding father-daughter relationship threatens – and the suspense is almost unbearable – to slip into a far riskier kind of friendship.
Fish Tank is on general release from 11th September.