Tag: Coming-Of-Age

Netflix Pick: ‘Fish Tank’

Fish Tank (2009)
Written & Directed by Andrea Arnold
122 mins.

By Tim Lucia

Andrea Arnold’s 2009 film Fish Tank is her second feature after the equally excellent 2006 film Red Road.  A hard-edged drama, Fish Tank provides a look into the life of a troubled young girl and the conflicts that surround her.  Mia (Katie Jarvis), rebellious, angst-ridden, foul-mouthed 15-year old lives a lower-class existence in Essex with her precocious younger sister and their young, sexed-up, chain-smoking, and seemingly unloving mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing).  Expelled from school, Mia spends her days wandering around her town drinking, causing trouble, and practicing her one passion, dancing.  Joanne then brings home her new handsome Irish boyfriend, Connor (Michael Fassbender), and he becomes friendly with Mia, encouraging her to pursue her love of dancing.  Their relationship eventually takes a turn, and Mia sets out to change things in both her own life, and for those around her.  Arnold has crafted an outstanding film here, with an excellent script and fantastic direction.  Young Jarvis gives a performance to rival Jennifer Lawrence’s in Winter’s Bone.  Fish Tank won Best Film at the 2009 BAFTA Awards (British equivalent of the Oscars) and won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes.

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Netflix Pick: ‘This is England’

This is England (2006)
Written & Directed by Shane Meadows
102 mins.

By Tim Lucia

Shane Meadows’ semi-autobiographical film This is England is an unflinching look into disenchanted youth, racism, and English subcultures.  In 1983, mods, new wavers, punks, and skinheads dominate the social scene in England.  Loner Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) begins his summer by getting picked on and fighting with local kids.  On his way home, he meets friendly skinhead Woody (Joseph Gilgun), who takes Shaun under his wing.  Shaun makes new friends, parties, and begins to be happy and enjoy his life.  Enter Combo (Stephen Graham) a dangerous, angry, militant skinhead who also takes a shine to Shaun.  Set against a backdrop of the Falklands War, Shaun sides with Combo, and the conflict escalates, forever changing the lives of all the characters.  Strong performances, story, and cinematography highlight this powerful film which won Best Film at the 2006 British Independent Film Awards.  The soundtrack features classic hits from reggae band Toots & The Maytals.

“Super 8”: A Fun Trip Down Memory Lane

Review by: Tim Lucia

*** (out of four)
Written & Directed by J.J. Abrams
112 mins.

J.J. Abrams’ meteoric rise to fame is thanks largely in part to the wild success of “Lost”, and also his previous two directorial features, “Mission: Impossible III” and “Star Trek”.  With “Super 8”, Abrams pays homage to the early films of Steven Spielberg, but adds a bit of his own style and flair.

The main narrative revolves around our protagonist Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his “Goonies”-like group of friends.  A group of film geeks led by the bossy director Charles (Issaquah native Riley Griffiths), the crew is making a short zombie film, shot with a Super 8 camera.  On board as lead actress is Alice (Elle Fanning), who provides a love interest for Joe.  A subplot between Alice’s ne’er-do-well father and Joe’s father, a put-upon Sheriff’s Deputy, arises to heighten the tension between them.

Kyle Chandler portrays Deputy Lamb with the same stern sympathy  he exuded as Coach Taylor on the TV show “Friday Night Lights”, his best known role before this film. The roles are so similar, it could be argued Chandler simply traded in his hat and windbreaker for a police uniform; but it’s a role he plays well.  Chandler and Fanning provide the strongest performances of the cast.  Abrams’ work always involves creating good emotional connections with the characters, and he succeeds again here, creating a nostalgic world in which the viewer can empathize with these three-dimensional characters.

Late one night, the crew sneaks out of their respective homes to shoot a scene at the local train station.  A truck drives onto the tracks and cranes into the train, sending the cars flying high and crashing all around the kids in an epic scene of action and destruction.  The kids run for their lives but leave the Super 8 camera rolling in the process.  A mysterious force is revealed, which sets in motion the main conflict of the film, as the town is quickly turned upside down.

Steven Spielberg serves as producer on the film, and it brings to mind “E.T.”, also a sci-fi adventure film centered around a group of youths, specifically a precocious young boy.  Something happens that he can’t quite explain, but he is intrigued by the unknown.  Dashes of “Close Encounters” and “The Goonies” can be seen, mixed with a few of Abrams’ own trademark plot devices.  With “Super 8”, Abrams weaves a story nostalgic for childhood and the mysteries that come with it.  Michael Giacchino’s simple yet beautiful score (similar to his score from “Up”) even seems to trigger memories.

There is a nice, sentimental tone to the film — without being overbearingly so.  Characters are lost, friendships are tested, young love blooms, and parent/child relationships are repaired.  Abrams manages to do all this in a somewhat fresh way.  Though it might be scary for some younger viewers, “Super 8” is a fun summer blockbuster almost all audiences can enjoy.