REVIEW: Fish Tank

Fish Tank
Directed by: Andrea Arnold
Written by: Andrea Arnold (screenplay)
Starring: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Harry Treadaway, and Kierston Wareing

Beginning with a head-on view of its protagonist surrounded by the blue walls of an abandoned apartment, Fish Tank explains its title almost right off the bat.  Mia, the 15-year-old girl occupying that frame, takes a little bit longer to get to know, though.

Director Andrea Arnold laces this confrontational tale of emerging adulthood and sexuality with vulgar language and despicable acts; more importantly, though, she fills it to the brim with sympathy.  Though Mia (Katie Jarvis) lives in the slums of Essex with her abusive mother and equally vulgar sister, she’ll be the first to tell you she’s not a victim.  In the first ten minutes, she headbutts a girl just for having the nerve to argue back at her and she attempts to free an imprisoned horse from a band of gypsies.

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REVIEW: Another Year

Another Year
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Written by: Mike Leigh (screenplay)
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, and Oliver Maltman

Ordinary life is delicate business, or so Mike Leigh wants you to think in his latest film.  Another Year and its cast of aging characters are both intimately familiar and lived in, and yet like nothing you’ve ever seen.  Leigh shows us happiness at its most stable and misery at its most crippling, usually in the same scene.

He does this chiefly through Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a happily married couple who are used to each other and the joke that their names often bring out in people.  Their life together, though, is something they take seriously.  Using their house as a kind of fortress from sadness, Leigh takes us through a year in their lives and the lives of those closest to them.  We begin in spring and end in winter; life to death.  It sounds more dramatic than it is.

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