Andrea Arnold’s verité aesthetics can often be pronounced to the point of affectation, but unlike in her thriller Red Road, this approach is reasonably well suited to the kitchen-sink realism of Fish Tank. Arnold’s second directorial feature adheres to a rather archetypal coming-of-age narrative in which angry Essex, England fifteen-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) enters into a relationship with her skanky, neglectful mother’s (Kierston Wareing) alluring new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender). Arnold’s jittery camerawork gets at her protagonist’s fury and rage as well as the instability of her present condition as a wasteful, perpetually pissed wannabe dancer roaming dilapidated projects, trash-strewn streets and stormy coastlines. Alas, that same cinematography also often proves self-consciously accentuated, leading to a stylistic unevenness to match the filmmaker’s jagged storytelling. Mia’s insecurities, her anger at her upbringing, and her desire (epitomized by her fondness for Bobby Womack’s cover of “California Dreamin’”) for a happier life in which affection isn’t expressed through “I hate you” are all depicted with striking naturalism. It’s a shame, then, that the underlying plot follows a routine path, not to mention one saddled with leaden symbolism like a fish dying in a grass field or a white horse chained up in an abandoned asphalt field. Still, in a POV shot of Mia watching Connor remove her shoes and pants before tucking her into bed, and a latter scene (lit primarily by a streetlamp shining outside a smudgy window) in which the girl showcases her dance routine for Connor, Red Road empathetically attunes itself to its heroine’s clumsy attempts – often modeled after her lousy parental role models – to understand and deal with her sexual awakening. And though the script’s Mike Leigh-ish working-class miserablism is undercut by an ill-fitting bit of third-act suspense and an unearned optimistic finale, the film’s rough patches are nonetheless considerably smoothed over by its performers, with ferocious newcomer Jarvis exuding potent adolescent confusion, anger and yearning, and Fassbender marrying force-of-personality magnetism with subtle treacherousness.