The film Fish Tank offers an experienced, fun, and a quite depressive representation of the youth culture in Essex. Mia -a 15 year old girl living her younger sister and mother- is often seen drinking in film, whenever she feels the need to relax (much like that of adults) or simply to have a good time. This shows Mia's exposure to adult life, which occurs throughout the film; For instance, when Mia has sexual intercourse with her mum's boyfriend (who was passed out upstairs).
Her child-ish side is juxtaposed throughout the film too, for example when she calls her sister a f**k-face when she practices dancing, when she goes fishing and gets a piggy-back from her mum's boyfriend and when she 'makes friends' with lonely horse - so much so she tries to set it free.
This contrast creates, and gives Mia hope. Hope = that she will get the dance audition, hope - she doesn't get abused by her mum anymore, hope = that she doesn't get shipped off to a boarding school.
The film explores Mia's inability to express herself through word of mouth, apart from shouting things she doesn't mean - this evidently causes frustration and stress -hence her frequent consumption of alcohol-. One way Mia can comfortably express herself is by dancing, which is represented in both a child-ish way (having fun) and a professional way (getting a dance audition).
In the film, the youth culture provides some funny moments, which act as a relief from the stress Mia is encumbered with. These moments are interrupted by aggressiveness; which emphasizes Mia's frustration with life. For instance, when Mia deliberately starts a fight with a group of amateur dancers trying to impress some boys, ending up head-butting one of the girls. This, again, reflects her ways of expressing herself, causing the audience to lift an eyebrow at her actions.
The horse is a significant sign in the film, as it shows children's love and enthusiasm for animals. The scene where Mia is trying to break the horse free for the first time is significant because she is doing something which she feels is right, but the reality is that she is trespassing and effectively stealing someone's horse. Which is where the audience begins to familiarize themselves with the protagonist, and begin to sympathise with her slightly.
Vulnerability is explored in this film, and it ties in with contemporary youth culture. Mia's vulnerability is shown when the owners of the horse physically tease her menacingly, this forwards the sympathy coming from the audience to Mia.
The film explores dysfunctional relationships within families in urban Britain, for example, Mia's frustration with her mother and and the ambiguous situation of Connor having an affair and entering a completely different lifestyle.
The audience is placed in Mia's shoes when she realizes that Connor has a wife and child, her confusion and frustration are portrayed through the distorted camera effects.
It is thought that youth often make a situation worse, this is reflected in the film when Mia has sex with Connor. To her, it can be seen as breaking through a barrier and getting her mum back for apparent years of abuse. To him, it is either a drunken mistake or a desire he has had for a long time. The tension leading up to this point is spread throughout the film, for instance - When he puts Mia to bed (everything starts to seem very slow), when he gives her a piggy-back (again, the camera goes in and out of focus and seems almost dream-like) and when they're hugging in the dark on the sofa.
These dream-like moments in the film reflect childhood experiences which Mia presumably didn't have; being tucked in by a father-figure, getting a piggy-back from a father figure, and towards the end of the film you see Connor's daughter running along the seaside. However, that moment is the complete opposite of a great childhood experience; Mia is attempting to kidnap her.
Andrea Arnold chose the title of the film very carefully, it reflects Mia's fairly repetitive lifestyle (just like a fish's) and certain boundaries that she must not cross. However, these boundaries are never quite clear throughout the film; It could be her estate (but she leaves it), it could be where the horse is chained up (but she later goes further than that) or it could be the fields she passes through towards the end (but she reaches the seaside) She then drives away with her newly-found friend at the end of the film- Which poses the thought that the boundaries could be what she does, not where she goes. However, this is also doubted as breaking and entering seems like a good place to stop, but instead Mia goes further and pees in Connor's living room. (This is not a normal action for any person - mirroring her thinking that she is doing something right, but is in fact wrong.
She goes even further than this by attempting to kidnap Connor's daughter, this takes the audience out of their comfort zone as again, Mia thinks she is doing it for a good cause (like a lot of contemporary youth).
Her boundary is explored toward the end of the film where she pushes Connor's daughter into off a ledge and into the sea. She realizes she has just crossed this boundary and saves her.