A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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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.
Talk to your kids 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?
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