I am speechless. Weirdly I would have enjoyed this episode a lot more if I had been spoiled for the ending, because as it was I spent the entire time dreading the inevitable 'change of heart', where Becky would decide that it was an okay idea to ruin her life because this is American television and girls don't GET abortions. So for the brave and brilliant Friday Night Lights to go down that route I am so damn grateful you have no idea. No miscarriage, no plans to have it and give it up for adoption, but a young girl realistically making an extraordinarily tough - but right for her - decision. Thank you, FNL. THANK YOU.
I watch a lot of films but it has been a while since a film has blown me away quite like Fish Tank, and I urge you all to seek it out because it really is a stunning achievement, and one of last year's best films, in my opinion. It's hard not to compare it to An Education, but where that film felt strangely dishonest to me, Fish Tank hits all the right notes and for that reason it's a far more emotionally resonant, shocking and captivating piece of film-making.
And if you're not sold yet then I'll give you a real reason to see the film: it is HOT.
So very hot.
Which, as you know, is the quickest and best way to win my heart. Behind the cut is a longish post - which contains some spoilers - about this disturbingly sexy film.
Our protagonist is Mia, a fifteen year old girl living with her mother and younger sister in an extremely poor area of outer London; she's a loner with no real friends, and no one who cares for her (least of all her mother). There's not a lot to do where she lives so she spends much of her time wandering the streets, although secretly she harbours a desire to make it as a hip hop dancer - she's not very good, but there is something incredibly touching about the scenes where she sneaks into an abandoned house to practice; it's clearly the one avenue through which she can release some of her pent-up aggression. She's sullen, angry, and rude, yet still a deeply sympathetic character, thanks to a mesmerising performance by non-professional actor, Katie Jarvis.
Life for Mia becomes a lot more interesting with the arrival of Connor (played by the utterly delicious and talented Michael Fassbender), her mother's new boyfriend. The first time Mia (and the audience) meets Connor is in the kitchen one morning, where he catches her dancing in her PJs in front of a Ja Rule music video. He tells her not to stop dancing - he was enjoying watching her - then he saunters in and starts making a cup of tea. He's wearing only a pair of low-slung jeans that hang enticingly off his ass, and his remarkable physique instantly gets Mia's attention. [I really want screencaps of that entire scene btw.] We're right in her POV and the way the camera lingers on his body is unabashedly erotic (I do try to support female directors anyway but honestly this is one of the reasons most of my favourite directors are women: the female gaze). We experience Mia's lust, and we also instantly appreciate his interest in her. This is probably the first time in her life she's been encouraged by anyone, and while there's a possible attraction on his part, he's not a predatory monster - he's a kind person (who happens to have an excess of sexual charisma), and Mia is in dire need of some kindness in her life.
[Now, in most mainstream films, teenage girls' sexuality is generally ignored. We are repeatedly told that girls don't want sex, they want romance. Which obviously is total bullshit, so for a film to actually deal with a fifteen year old girl's sexuality with such frankness is one of the reasons this picture is so great. The truth is, at fifteen years old I would have fallen madly in love with Connor and I wouldn't have given a shit that he was too old for me.]
What follows is spellbinding - a perfectly paced, increasingly erotic story that has the courage of its convictions. I defy any of you to watch this and not be deeply invested in the complex dynamic between Mia and Connor; their relationship is both disturbing and believable, and yes, sexy as all hell. Their scenes together are utterly electric because Andrea Arnold (the director) understands, as Andrew O'Hehir points out, that, "illicit or forbidden sex is often the hottest -- however we may feel about it seconds or hours later."
Very true, Andrew. Very true.
I won't spoil you any more than I already have, but I will say that this film is basically perfect, except for a scene towards the end which, imo, clashes with the understated mood of the rest of the piece.
So, has anyone else see it?