Directed by: Andrea Arnold. My fascination with Michael Fassbender has turned into a compulsion to see every bit of his filmography that I can find. Even this notwithstanding, when I saw the ads for Fish Tank, I was vaguely drawn to it anyway. I wasn’t compelled towards it, though, because it looked like just another film of its kind—a poor teenager from a broken home, and a chance encounter with a parental figure who just might be the only one who actually gives a shit about her (or who shows it, anyway). When you watch the movie, you get something much more subtle, more graceful, more ambiguous, more uncomfortable, and ultimately more compelling and memorable than any “movie of this kind” I’ve ever seen. The plot is actually crucially important to this movie, so I’ll leave you in the dark about the details. I can tell you that this is a “good film” on a technical level—as a story, it uses fairly simple and easy-to-get motifs in order to spell out its themes, but still delicate enough not to hit you over the head. Put crudely, all of the animals in this film are the girl, Mia. The old horse chained to a rock, the frightened gerbil in his container, the fish dying on the shore, they are all Mia in her “fish tank”, the constraints and limitations of the world around her as a poor teenaged girl in modern Britain. The movie never seems preachy, it never talks down to you, and this is largely due to great characterization, believable characters, and incredibly subtle and naturalistic performances from the entire cast, from Kate Jarvis in the leading role to the little minor roles. Maybe this is a bad territory to cross, but I’ll cautiously pose a hypothesis that, being directed by a woman, Andrea Arnold, perhaps this film feels different to me because all my life I’ve watched films by men. Arnold is an individual with a specific background, and her film is incomparably different (and better) than a film I saw recently directed by a woman (Nowhere Boy), but it just occurred to me that this film seemed like it came from a different place than it normally does. But that could just be good filmmaking in a sea of commercial drivel.