Teenage star of ‘Fish Tank’ wows Cannes

Posted by · 7:39 am · May 14th, 2009

Katie Jarvis in Fish TankOnly two films in so far, but it seems we have a formidable contender for the festival’s top honors in the shape of Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank.” The film has just screened for the press, and Arnold — who won the bronze-medal Jury Prize in 2006 with her debut feature “Red Road” — has evidently built on that success, but it seems the real revelation is the film’s 17 year-old star, Katie Jarvis.

A non-professional making her screen debut, Jarvis is unable to attend the festival, having just given birth to her first child in her Essex hometown. But even in her absence, the young lady is generating enough to buzz to plant her as a strong contender for the Best Actress  award. IndieWire’s Eugene Hernandez calls her “the first major acting discovery” of the festival, while Screen International’s Allan Hunter gushes:

Following in the wake of Kate Dickie’s extraordinary performance in Red Road, newcomer Katie Jarvis is every bit as impressive as Mia, finding the vulnerability of the teenager without recourse to sentimentality or surrendering any of her anger or sarcasm. It is a performance that should win her a lot of attention and add profile to a film that will have to fight for its audience.

There’s also effusive praise from Hunter for Jarvis’s significantly more established co-star, “Hunger” sensation Michael Fassbender, and the film itself, which he compares to the works of Ken Loach and the Dardenne brothers in “finding the poetic moments in even the bleakest of lives.”

Wendy Ide at the Times of London completely concurs, describing Jarvis’s performance as “tremendous,” and commending Arnold for being “sympathetic to the subtlest flickers in the performances of her actors.”

The film certainly doesn’t sound like an easy sit — like this year’s Sundance sensation “Precious,” it focuses on a lower-class teenage girl damaged by physical and emotional abuse from her loveless mother. (Matters are made even more grim when she falls in love with her mother’s charismatic new boyfriend, played by Fassbender.)

Speaking of “Precious,” following the Sundance acclaim for that film’s star Gabourey Sidibe and “An Education” ingenue Carey Mulligan, this marks the third wave of festival buzz for a young actress playing a teenage protagonist this year. Interestingly, Jarvis was spotted by a casting director while having a heated argument with her boyfriend (and father of her newborn baby) on a railway station platform. Now there’s a story for you.

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7 responses so far

  • 1 5-14-2009 at 7:49 am

    head_wizard said...

    Alright first day and already a movie to look foward too!

  • 2 5-14-2009 at 8:21 am

    Simone said...

    There is huge buzz about Kate and Michael’s performance. It would be a brilliant coup if one or both could win best acting in their category, and an even bigger one is this little film took the Palm d’Or. It’s Fassymas today!

  • 3 5-14-2009 at 9:50 am

    AdamL said...

    Never saw Red Road because a mate of mine who is never ever critical about anything said it was the most appalling, most embarrassing, most awfully directed, acted and scripted film he’d seen in years.

    Then I read a Cannes preview piece the other day which said it was one of the boldest debuts of any UK director in ages.

    Who was right?

  • 4 5-14-2009 at 10:08 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Your mate is completely wrong. Haha.

    I wouldn’t call it a perfect film — it’s a bit self-regarding in spots, and the thriller element goes off-kilter by the end, but it’s a mightily vivid, unnerving piece of work. All the more so for being a debut.

    As for “acted”? Kate Dickie is a knockout in it. Make up your own mind.

  • 5 5-14-2009 at 12:11 pm

    TinaLu said...

    I must agree with the gentleman above, Red Road was one of the best films I saw last year, and I cannot wait to see Fish Tank. I find Andrea Arnold very impressive.

  • 6 5-15-2009 at 1:47 am

    Glenn said...

    “Red Road” was fantastic. One of the best horror films of the decade (I do consider it horror since I sat with my knees to my chest for a long portion of the the time).

    Definitely looking forward to “Fish Tank”.

  • 7 5-15-2009 at 5:41 pm

    meh said...

    Red Road has its flaws but is definitely quality. The “self-regarding” is the story: we follow the sense of existence, of someone who’s minimally functional socially within her shell, when she peeps outside that shell, walks out, blows stuff away without regard for herself, etc…very intricate stuff.