Fish Tank Movie Poster Image

Fish Tank

Stark, powerful drama for older teens and adults.
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 123 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Despite enormous challenges, Mia bristles under the pressure to stay inert in an environment that’s suffocating her. The message? You don’t have to be a victim of your environment, though redemption and reinvention are hard to get, and true love even more so. The one true thing may be love of yourself.

Positive role models

Mia strives to rise above her circumstances, which is difficult, and she sometimes makes destructive choices. All the characters are flawed and, if they mean to do good, end up hurting others, including a man who appears genuinely interested in a young woman’s fate but takes action that ultimately scars her.


A girl headbutts another and leaves her with a bloodied nose. A man slaps a teenager after she tries to kidnap his daughter. Two men manhandle a young woman after she tries to free their chained horse.


An adult beds a teenager while her mother is passed out upstairs. He's shown removing her pants and positioning himself between her legs. A teen spies on her mother and her boyfriend while they have sex in the dark; her breasts are briefly shown, and his chest is bared. Couples dance suggestively; a teenager walks into a kitchen, where a man appears to be fondling a woman under her skirt (nothing is seen except for the hand under clothing).


Runs the gamut from “skanky” and “s--t” to “f--k” and “c--t.”


Some beer labels; one of the characters is keen on stripping Volvos of parts for his own use. Certain CD covers are shown.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Both adults and children -- as young as tweens -- drink and smoke frequently.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this British drama about a teenager who falls for her inattentive mother’s boyfriend can be relentlessly bleak at times, and its mature themes may be too intense for all but the oldest of teens. But it’s a powerful film with a heroine who’s determined and resourceful in a world with few options. There’s plenty of swearing and drinking, and not just by adults. Teens and tweens have their vices, too -- like drinking and picking fights -- and are seen indulging in them fairly frequently.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Fifteen-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) lives in a British housing project, unwanted by her neglectful mother (Kierston Wareing), her father nowhere in sight, and her younger sister (Rebecca Griffiths) headed nowhere fast. Her only escape is dance, which she indulges in with great fervor, if not finish. In comes her mother’s new boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender), a security guard who doles out attention, praise, and interest in Mia -- stuff she’s lived without for ages. But does he want to be her father or her lover? Mia finds him intriguing. And it appears he feels the same.

Is it any good?


The world portrayed in FISH TANK is bleak and claustrophobic. Fathers are absent; mothers ignore their children; and children smoke, curse, and drink like their parents. Everyone struggles to survive, and connections with great potential are corrupted by circumstances and human frailty. But in writer-director Andrea Arnold’s hands, it’s a world that intrigues. She allows the story to unfold in its own time, refraining from cheapening the enterprise with frantic cuts and oppressive music, as other filmmakers sometimes do. She tells a tale we’ve heard before but with amazing dexterity.

What makes Mia and Connor’s questionable-yet-palpable connection compelling and believable are the performances. Fassbender’s Connor isn’t so much lecherous as confused, unable to explain himself or his desires and intentions. And Jarvis, as Mia (her first movie role), astonishes, balancing longing with confusion and rage. Combative and insulting, Mia isn’t all that likable. But we wish for her nothing but joy and escape. It’s not a given she’ll get either.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the sexual activity in the movie. Do you think Connor is taking advantage of Mia? Do you know any teens who've been intimately involved with adults? Teens: Who can you talk to about these issues?

  • What are the real-life consequences of behavior such as underage drinking? Are those consequences depicted believably here?

  • Why is Mia the way she is? What and who have shaped her personality? If she hates the way her mother is, why does she act a lot like her sometimes? How are they different?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 15, 2010
DVD/Streaming release date:February 22, 2011
Cast:Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, Michael Fassbender
Director:Andrea Arnold
Studio:IFC Entertainment
Run time:123 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Adult Written bywonder dove September 14, 2012

Enjoyable British Film!

Great movie! Fish Tank is different than most. It's a British drama (easy to understand - unlike some British speaking movies!) based on a 15 year old teen struggling to figure out where she belongs. She loves dance but doubts her potential. Her mother treats her like she doesn't exist. She has a crush on her mother's boyfriend who also likes her back - they share a fling towards the mid-end of the film. She sppears to have no friends (at least in the movie) except for a boy her age she later meets. The story is quite good although slow, presents the challenges of a typical teenager who just wants a chance without getting stomped on. Very unique film! Watch out for language, drinking and smoking (even by small children) and sexual content (Two sex scenes and plenty of sexual innuendo). Worth watching!!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking