Female Director Spotlight: Andrea Arnold’s Intimate Realism

Hey everyone! Dilara and I have decided to start a monthly female director spotlight here at Much Ado, so we can explore the amazing films of so many women in the industry whose work we believe deserves more acknowledgement, attention and/or appreciation. If you have any suggestions for directors you’d like to see here, please let us know! Gender imbalance is a deeply entrenched issue within film, and it’s disgraceful to see, especially when the work of so many women deserves much higher credit. For the first entry in this series, I’ve chosen my all-time favourite director, Andrea Arnold.

THE REALITIES OF WORKING CLASS BRITISH LIFE: FISH TANK

As a young, working class British woman, I often feel that British cinema does not represent my surroundings in the slightest – a feeling that I’m sure many others share when exploring the cinema of their home countries. British cinema is usually characterised by a certain middle-upper class charm, whether it be in the quaint fantasy world of Harry Potter, to elaborate costume drama reflecting on icons of the past, through to the romanticised portrayals of royalty which sanitise the distinctive class divisions that seem to be embedded within our social system. Without making this piece too political, discovering Andrea Arnold’s work provided me with access to the stories I grew up around and experienced daily, portrayed on screen with no sanctimonious sheen to dispel audience discomfort. Here was my own reality reflected at me, and for the first time, I felt represented.

mv5bmjexnzgznjcwn15bml5banbnxkftztcwotexnzm4mg-_v1_.jpgKatie Jarvis in Fish Tank (2009)

To move away from personal attachments, Arnold’s 2009 breakout work, ‘Fish Tank’, is the starting point I’d recommend for most newcomers. ‘Fish Tank’ homes in on what it feels like to have dreams of a better life, whilst being trapped in a cycle of poverty. It tells a brutal story of working class adolescence, featuring an amazing lead performance from first timer Katie Jarvis, as well as supporting roles from Michael Fassbender and a young Harry Treadaway. Arnold takes what could easily have become an over-the-top melodrama and skilfully channels it into an honest and sometimes heart-breaking portrayal of life on a council estate. The impact of neglect and misfortune on a strikingly human protagonist is incredibly moving, and it’s hard not to be deeply affected by lead character Mia’s struggle through teenage life.

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