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I have now seen two films by Andrea Arnold, and I am very happy about that fact. It’s as easy as that: with a film-maker like her, you will find flaws and deficits in all her work, and you will see how the confinements of low-budget film-making affect the overall product. But all that does not matter, because this is so much more interesting and inspiring and thrilling than whatever else you get from the shelve of fancy polished movie-making.

Red Road was set in the gritty suburbs of Glasgow, and if you thought that was bleak, then wait until you see the Essex area where “Fish Tank” plays out. There is so much to see: a desolate family with a single mother, two teenage daughters (the older of which is our film’s heroine, played by the amazing Kate Jarvis), a new boyfriend who is just too gorgeous and great and perfect to be true (no wonder, as he is played by gorgeous and great and perfect Michael Fassbender). There is a permanent disruption of expectations, not just for the viewer, who almost never gets what would be convention to give him next (a man follows a girl through across a field because she has been massively messing with his life, he is chasing her, he reaches her, and then…. ), but also for the characters, who start obvious lines of action, but halfway through realize that something is a better idea before you actually start doing it: Release a horse from captivity? Abduct a child? Real people will realize that it is easy to follow your impulse on this, but not easy at all to go through with it.

And it is the degree of reality, sad reality at times, that makes the film so interesting: the lead character has one dream, and that is to dance. With all her efforts and all her practice what she can achieve with this is to get invited to a hanky-panky dance parlor. That’s all, there is no hope beyond that, because she clearly does not have too much do offer. But different people have to work with different levels of hope and perspectives, and this one is all she has. The only alternative she has after she and everybody else produced a real mess, with not many exist options, is to reset her whole existence, and see whether a clean slate will by chance bring about some better cards.

I was thinking: if anybody wants to learn about the difference between US and European approaches to film-making, just watch how the life and times of a teenage girls is depicted in “Fish Tank” and in “Juno”. You will probably learn all there is to learn if you watch hard enough.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/fish_tank/

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