19 February 2010

Fish Tank *

On the one hand, the protagonist here is hostile, aggressive, petulant, and generally kind of unlikeable. On the other hand, she's amazingly easy to sympathize with, because she has dreams -- and partially because her dreams are just so pathetic. I challenge anybody to watch Mia's dance moves and not cringe a little inside, but she is so earnest, she wants it so bad, you want it right along with her. She's chasing idiotic dreams with all her heart and she still kind of looks like a poser who doesn't really get it; she's right up there on the screen being what every human being fears they are. Of course she's got our sympathy!

Jon pointed out, Andrea Arnold never goes quite as far as you think she will or feel like her world is capable of going. It occurs to me that this is actually more challenging to the audience than if the events were more extreme or dark. Coming to that precipice and backing away just before the tipping point deprives her stories of any easy moralization. Nobody faces dire black-and-white life-and-death consequences, so instead the story hovers in a moral limbo where sometimes bad deeds go unpunished, but good ones don't. It's messy and it makes you decide for yourself what was too far, or who was to blame, or if people acted rightly or not.

Mmm, that's good ambiguity!

Seen at the Whitsell Auditorium as part of the Portland International Film Festival.

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