286 Great Directors: Andrea Arnold

“I wonder whether my bleak-o-meter is set differently from other people’s. I have such passion for what I do that I can’t see it as bleak. When people use that word, or ‘grim’ or ‘gritty’, I just think, ‘Oh, come on, look a bit deeper.’ My films don’t give you an easy ride. I can see that. The sense I get is that people have quite a physical experience with them. They feel afterwards that they’ve really been through something.”

Why This Director?
: She’s just incredible-Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights are astounding.

My Last Experience Was…: Wuthering Heights.

What Did I Watch: Her Oscar winning short Wasp, Red Road, and a rewatch of Fish Tank.

Where Does She Fit: Nothing makes me low-key happier than knowing Andrea Arnold has an Oscar for a short film, and Wasp is pretty wonderful. The physicality of her women gets grabbed onto right in the first scene when two women get into a fight, ending with a joyous collective middle finger on the side of the mother of four kids. She tries to avoid getting into man trouble again, but she knows she has to anyway, and when her kids are already lying to her about the looks of the guy anyway, she knows she might as well just go out with him. Her on the nose animal symbolism is already going full throttle, but that is part of what gives the material breathing room.

Red Road features a woman named Jackie who works as a CCTV operator, and either knows the streets she watches too well or not at all. What seems to be another kitchen sink drama like Wasp turns into digital age Hitchcock, with the kink of Kate Dickie’s lead watching two people have sex in an alleyway, unreported, becoming her realization that she knows this man through the blurry screen. The one mistake in the bomb that slowly burns its fuse: we sort of get told why she is looking for the man with some newspaper headlines that she riffs through. Why not keep her obsession a total secret until the ending? Otherwise, the cold and clinical craft, particularly in the sound work, make this a thrilling feature debut, one that looks like it was shot by an old pro in the casual mastery of the weird VHS colors and blockiness that we frantically riff around in.


Fish Tank’s white horse still hasn’t aged well, but Katie Jarvis still not making a second movie is astonishing, and so is everything else in this perfectly color coded piece of kitchen sink…well, not realism, more like lyricism as we dance our way through everything in ugly rooms. It’s like Rocky, in a way, except not bland, and with Michael Fassbender as a love interest who can form complete sentences convincingly and is perfectly suited for the brutish yet sexy men who Arnold favors. They’re the new British Ginger and Fred, but covered in dirt and all the mistaken identity nonsense is internalized on contradictions and confusion about the way life is going.


Most Valuable Asset: Humans are animals in the landscape.
Most Excited For: American Honey.

Coming Up Next: Portuguese meta man, Joao Cesar Monteiro.


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