Qt3 Movie Podcast: Fish Tank

Ah, finally a good movie. Wait, scratch that. A great movie. We all loved Fish Tank and hope we can find at least a few more movies in 2010 even half this good. What a revelation. If you haven’t seen it, well, you’re missing out. See if you can do something about that.

Until then, you can fast forward to the 54-minute mark for this week’s 3x3. We discuss the stupidest computers, robot brains, or cybernetic organisms…

Next week: Shutter Island

Doesn’t even get a release here in Australia. Pity. Actually, we have a local film society that might secure a copy for the local deckchair cinema. I’ll keep an eye out.

Might be worth mentioning that Fish Tank is available on IFC’s cable/satellite On Demand thing.

Great news, alex. Thanks for that.

I must note here that we all feel VERY STRONGLY that you should see this film before listening to this podcast (or knowing anything about it, really). Trust us. As Mr. Wand says so eloquently, you should go in to this film as naked as possible.

You will be rewarded.


I couldn’t find it on Comcast On Demand.

It’s not even showing up here in Salt Lake until the middle of March. Stupid film festival, and stupid Academy Awards.

The IFC site says it is available (and IIRC, films are up for about three-four months from initial release). But perhaps you should check here to make sure it is offered on your provider.

Wow. I haven’t verified this, but evidently it is in a very non-intuitive place: Movies & Events > Same Day As Theatres > IFC In Theatres.

As opposed to like under “Movies > IFC.”

I was pretty “meh” on this after I saw it last night – largely because of my own lack of tolerance for trashy, unpleasant British people – but it’s really sitting well with me this morning.

Spoilers follow.

As you guys pointed out, Michael Fassbender’s performance as Connor is fantastic, and he’s easily the most fascinating character in the film, but I think my impression differs from yours about exactly what that character’s all about.

I think I remember Tom saying that he thought Connor wasn’t actually predatorial, or even a bad guy, but just kind of an idiot, well-meaning but incapable of controlling his baser urges. I don’t think that’s the case. What happens to him is more complicated.

We don’t really know what happened between Connor and his wife, but when we meet him in the movie, he’s left his family (presumably of his own volition) and is slumming it with the first trashy slut he meets. He’s a bad husband, in other words… but his natural ease with both Mia and her little sister shows that he’s still an excellent father figure.

Connor himself seems to realize this: it’s very striking how, in the film, he seems least comfortable when he’s around just Mia’s mother, and instead orchestrates scenarios where he can spend time with the girls. It seems like he’s not only most at ease in a fatherly role, but that part of the reason he becomes so attached to Mia and her little sister is because he misses his own daughter (with whom he obviously has a very close relationship, regardless of the present circumstances.)

I think what ends up happening to Connor is situational. He sleeps with Mia, but he doesn’t just do it because he’s drunk, or a scumbag. There’s nothing predatorial about it. It’s a reactive act of deep emotional confusion. He’s spent the last week living in a cramped apartment, power fucking Mia’s mother a cardboard-thin wall away from where the youngest daughter sleeps. All the girls run around half-dressed, even the mother. Everyone has roughly the same level of maturity, in that everyone in that house is innocent, but it’s almost impossible to see under all the brashness. In that same apartment, he goes to drunken parties where adults openly finger each other in the kitchen as little girls themselves booze and smoke upstairs. Connor is clearly a more classy guy than Mia’s family, and for the first time ever, he’s put into this environment filled with people who don’t think, but live a life based entirely on chaos and reaction. Everything around him is seeped in equal measure of innocence and sex… and this profoundly affects Connor.

In other words, Connor suddenly finds himself in a tiny environment in which everything mixes together – sex and naivete and childhood and primal emotion in equal measure. The people around him are the fish, creatures who largely navigate the ebb of these currents on reactive instinct.

What I think happens to Connor in this environment is that his instinct to be a father becomes temporarily confused with his sexual identity, which and so he sleeps with Mia, who is just as confused about the link between fatherhood and sexuality as he is. I think it is to Connor’s great credit that he leaves the next morning: he is clearly an introspective character, and what happened with Mia has horrified him, in part because of what it could possibly mean in relation to his own daughter as she gets older. He hasn’t just betrayed Mia but betrayed the best part about himself. The incident startles and shocks him into going home and reconciling with his wife.

Even so, I think it’s pretty obvious Connor is deeply disturbed by what happened between him and Mia, and heartbroken about having betrayed her trust in him as a father figure. He leaves without a word because there’s simply nothing to say. When Mia tracks him down to his house he drives her back to the train station, the kiss he gives her isn’t sexually charged at all: it’s the kiss of a deeply repentant person who knows he’s not only broken a heart trusted to him, but betrayed a surrogate daughter.

In the end, though, this turns out to still be a positively transformative experience for Mia, which I think is one of the things I think is smartest about Fish Tank. It’s not a film about a predatorial older man ruining a young girl’s life, which is what a less intelligent film would have been about given the same premise. It’s really about how Connor becomes a father figure to a lonely and very confused girl, sleeps with her, and somehow manages to save her anyway.

It’s all about that slap in the field, in which father Connor is finally able to impart to Mia that knowing who you really are is the only way she can ever escape the life her mother and sister are consigned to. She learns to think, and not just react. She learns consequences. She stops being just an id. She becomes a person. By the time the horse dies, she knows that to simply feel in chaos and just as chaotically react is to drown in her own life. By the end of the film, she’s at peace with her family and is off to Wales of her own calm volition, with the strong inference (the volume of her luggage, which her sister comments upon, as well as the family’s reaction to her departure) that she’s not coming back. Mia escapes.

There’s a lot more to praise about the film and there’s just so many stunningly real scenes and characters to note. For example, Connor’s almost magical capture of the live fish, or the scene in which Mia’s little sister watches “Britain’s Got Talent” while drinking, smoking a cigarette and calling all the contestants prats. The chase through the field, and that single, perfect slap. Or the poignancy of the scene in which Mia, so confused and upset about the revelation that Connor already has a daughter, doesn’t know what to do or how to react except by pulling down her pants and urinating hysterically on the rug. Ultimately, though, I think my thoughts on the film are just as chaotic, reactive and hard to vocalize as Mia’s own thoughts about her life… to the great credit of the actors, director and screenwriter involved.

Fish Tank certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – hell, it wasn’t even my cup of tea until I slept on it – but I’m really glad I got to see it. Thanks for the recommendation, guys.

PS: Was Fish Tank in a 4:3 aspect ration theatrically too?

I’m re-listening to your podcast, and just wanted to say a few more things:

  1. Tom says Mia “vandalizes” the rug after discovering Connor has a daughter. I couldn’t disagree more with this: Mia is so upset she literally loses all control of herself. This is very in keeping with her character: until the end of the film, she doesn’t know how to do anything besides just react to her chaotic emotions. She’s an id, and the film is about her finally becoming a person.

  2. Christian’s right about the earlier scene in which Mia is almost raped: he let the dogs go on purpose. I think her friendship with this brother is one of the more understated but important aspects of the film: in many ways, like Connor, he is an introspective and kind character. He’s not an id. He doesn’t just react. He’s a genuine person. Mia’s friendship with him is just touching: when they sit alone in the apartment, you just realize how desperately Mia needs a friend.

  3. I don’t think she walks off the stage because she realizes the dancing job is crummy, as I think Tom says. I honestly don’t even think she realizes the job is an erotic dancing job. I think Mia walks off the stage because the song no longer means the same thing to her. It’s the director showing the audience that Mia has become introspective and self-aware enough to actually understand how she feels, and then act upon her understanding of the person she is.

Beautiful posts, DrCrypt. You’ve given me a lot to chew on.

I agree with your “vandalizes” point. I thought it was funny when Tom said that because I thought he was being coy and I didn’t stop to think about how that moment really struck me during the film. I think I was too caught up in what would happen if she got caught. That moment was such a shock to me. I just sat there, blinking my eyes and saying to myself, “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing? Is she doing what I think she’s doing?” I couldn’t process it at first. Your analysis rings true.

I think my favorite statement from one read through is this:

I did not stop to think how the chaos that comes out of this might be affecting Connor. Partly because, as Kelly said, the entire film is from her point of view. I simply did not consider what was happening to him, only how his presence and his actions were impacting their lives (specifically Mia’s life). Your point about his confusion drives the film to another level for me.

Something we never really dealt with was Connor’s home life, and what him being away from his family for extended periods of time meant, or rather what this said about him as a person. How this defined him (at this point in time anyway) as a father and a husband. Your breakdown is excellent.

I do still wonder, however, if this is a singular event for him, or if he’s shacked up many times before. Does he land in their lives because of the problems in his own relationship, or is he a serial adulterer? If the latter, that kind of blows what you have to say about his confusion, and I really like that point, so I’m leaning toward dismissing the idea that he’s had a number of women he has strung along. Does the film give us any clues about this?

Damn. This makes me immediately want to go out and see the film again. Crap! I have to go see Shutter Island instead.


-“We’re not going nowhere.”
-“I don’t care. I still want to come.”

Same here. That scene had me on the edge of my seat: I was just so sure she was going to be caught. My breath was just stuck in my throat. It’s strange, in retrospect, how strangely dismissive of the film I was when I first saw it. Fish Tank was filled with scenes equally captivating, and I was so invested I had a visceral reaction to everything happening, yet my distaste for the social class involved was so strong that I needed a good sleep to realize that this was one of the more touching movies about innocence and fatherhood I’ve ever seen.

I do still wonder, however, if this is a singular event for him, or if he’s shacked up many times before. Does he land in their lives because of the problems in his own relationship, or is he a serial adulterer? If the latter, that kind of blows what you have to say about his confusion, and I really like that point, so I’m leaning toward dismissing the idea that he’s had a number of women he has strung along. Does the film give us any clues about this?

The film, as far as I know, says nothing about this, but why does it matter? A good husband (or partner) doesn’t need to be (and isn’t) synonymous with being a good father. Good fathers are often rotten husbands, and vice versa. They are different instincts entirely. How many times Connor’s been unfaithful with his wife is irrelevant compared to how many times he’s betrayed his “daughter’s” trust, or been a “husband” in that specific environment (council estate + kids). I think the film makes it clear that in regards to either, or or both, this Connor’s first and only time, and he badly regrets it.

For me, that’s what really works about Connor: he knows he is a bad husband, just as he knows he is a good father, but when he confuses the two in the very specific sociological environment that Mia and her family live in, he is completely horrified by the person that he could be in another circumstance. I think the experience of sleeping with Mia transforms them both: while Mia ultimately learns that she can’t react to chaotic emotion alone and that she must escape, Connor realizes that to be a good father while not at least trying to be a good husband is to pervert the innocence of the one you would shield and cherish most. The margin between being both a father and a husband is too gray, too murky.

(For what it’s worth, I have no idea what happened between Connor and his wife, but I think their separation must have largely been of his own choice: she accepts him back readily enough.)

Oh, by the way: “I like you. I’ll kill you last?” That’s a quote from Commando.

While I’d agree that the last statement is a matter of fact, I’ll have to take issue with the word “need” in the statement above. While it is true that the two are often not synonymous, I would argue that part of being a good father is being a good husband, at least insomuch as part of a parent’s duty is to provide stability, and keeping the family intact is a huge part of that.

You can’t note the chaos of the situation in Mia’s household and not see that a father (or a mother, for that matter) who is destructive to his marriage is damaging his child. What a curious statement.

Unless I’m misinterpreting the way you’re using the word ‘need’ here. Of course, a bad husband is capable of being an excellent father, so if you mean ‘requirement’ when you say ‘need’, okay, I can see that. Single parents can be excellent parents. But a man who is treating his wife poorly (if we assume that is the case with Connor, for the sake of this argument) is failing in one pretty important aspect of fatherhood.

How many times Connor’s been unfaithful with his wife is irrelevant compared to how many times he’s betrayed his “daughter’s” trust, or been a “husband” in that specific environment (council estate + kids). I think the film makes it clear that in regards to either, or or both, this Connor’s first and only time, and he badly regrets it.

Your point about betrayal of his “daughter” is spot on, and I think works in nicely with something Tom said on the podcast about him leaving immediately. The reason I brought up the question of the frequency of Connor’s unfaithfulness is because I believe it speaks directly to your point about Connor’s state of mind, his blurring of sexuality and fatherhood, his–as you put it–emotional confusion. In other words, if adultery is par-for-Connor’s-course, then saying he raped Mia in a fit of emotional confusion has less heft. If this is a singular situation for him, your point is much more resonant for me.

Also, to be honest, I’m torn on how sympathetic to be. This is a brutal question for me, and another thing I love about this film. Tom’s point about Mia’s mother, how she isn’t a total monster or cartoon (not exactly how he put it, but along those lines), works into this nicely too.


Thanks for the recommendation, the podcast and the posts in this thread. All great stuff.

IMDB says the aspect ratio is 1.33 : 1, so I guess it was. I saw it On Demand and for a while thought I had accidentally purchased the non-HD version. I hate when I do that. Stupid menus.

Wait. Did anyone need that cleared up?

Hey,look what’s getting a Criterion release this week.

Unfortunately, no commentary tracks, which sucks. In fact, underwhelming extras all around. Although assuming the audition footage is of Katie Jarvis’ audition, that would be pretty interesting. This was her first movie and she’d never acted before.


Not only that, Tom, but the film is available to Watch Instantly on Netflix now, as well.

Both of those are great news. Thanks fellas.

The Criterion has three short films on it. That’s pretty good. I’d dearly love a commentary track, but I’m happy to see the film getting the Criterion treatment. Man, just clicking on Tom’s link and seeing the still image on that trailer makes me catch my breath. I so love this movie.

This is perfect timing for the film to be on instant watch, too, since I brought it up on the ballots I put out for a stupid homemade Oscar contest I do every year. I anticipate my friends and family coming back at me with, “Fish Tank? What’s that?” Now I have somewhere to point them.


“It’s like she came out looking for trouble.”

I’m pretty sure it’s been on instant watch for a while. There’s no excuse for more people not having seen this movie by now. Get with it, Qt3!


“You dance like a black.”

That’s a compliment.