15-year old Mia will take not shit from anyone. She is as likely to verbally attack before she is dissed, than not. This is her defense mechanism. This has gotten her into trouble, as she awaits for an assignment to a school for troubled teens. Her mother, not a very good mom in any case, just can’t handle her any longer.
Along about this time her mom’s new boyfriend decides to move in. He’s good with the kids, and Mia finds herself drawn to him. He encourages her in her (limited) ambitions. As tough as Mia appears, she has soft spots in her soul for those that seem to be abused. This includes animals. When she sees a white, emaciated horse chained to a granite post, she tries to break the chain and free the horse. This leads to a near gang rape.
Mia is played by an untested, amateur that director Andrea Arnold discovered hanging out on a train platform. Of course, what else. Katie Jarvis has a wild, feral screen presence and fills the role with energy and vulnerability. Michael Fassbender, who plays the mom’s boyfriend, is shown here in a purposefully enigmatic role. Is he the savior father figure that Mia so desperately needs, or is he an abusive and philandering predator?
There is an interlude in the film where it seems that all will be redeemed, as the foursome take a trip to a river in the country. On the way, Mia rides in the back seat with her eyes closed, nodding her head to Connor’s”favorite all-time” song: A Bobby Womack rendition of a classic soul piece. Mia and Connor catch a fish bare handed. Connor again encourages Mia to enter the dance auditions which she hopes is her way out. It turns out to be just an audition for strippers.
Andrea Arnolds film is raw, and tough offering only rare glimmers of hope. One of which Mia takes. Maybe it will be her salvation. Or maybe she’ll just be following in her mother’s footsteps.