At first glance the film Christine might bring to mind the decades-old movie, Network, or a tragic version of the 70s sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In fact, the film is an excellent, poignant piece based on the true story of television news journalist Christine Chubbuck, whose struggles with professional idealism and depression induced her to take her own life on the air in 1974.
Written by Craig Shilowich and directed by Antonio Campos, the subject matter is sensitive as Chubbuck’s family opposed the making of the movie; however, Rebecca Hall’s superb portrayal of the reporter does not present her in a negative light, but rather celebrates her integrity, her passion, and her complexity, while sympathetically depicting her battle with anxiety, depression and mood swings.
Joe Anderson’s very precise cinematography uses frequent, lingering close-ups and attention to detail to enhance a general feeling of discomfort in viewing a woman who is so panicked about everything: she desperately tries to manage her life and career as it continues to unravel, knowing that what she perceives as unfairness is caused by her own inability to cope in a functional way, a dysfunction caused by her overwrought behaviour and fearful impulse to control and to self-protect.
Although these elements are pervasive and cumulative in Hall’s characterisation of Chubbuck, the latter’s passion and integrity as a journalist is also expressed, as occasional glimpses of humour and charm appear through the clouds of her tension and gloom. Hall skilfully maintains a duality suggesting nuances of Chubbuck’s real self, as she might have been without her illness.
The atmosphere of an era is created with lighting, 70s tunes, and historical references like Watergate – but the period’s significance is primarily in its biographical context; Chubbuck does bear a resemblance to a darker version of Mary Tyler Moore, an icon of that decade, whose sitcom theme song Love Is All Around plays in somber irony as the film concludes.
The ensemble effectively portrays Christine’s patient and frustrated family and colleagues. Tracy Letts is convincing as a beleaguered station manager trying appeal to viewers by asking his staff to create “juicier” content. Michael C Hall, as anchor George Peter Ryan, creates a multidimensional persona that could have easily been two dimensional.
In its entirety, Christine is a remarkable, compelling film.
Christine does not have a UK release date yet
For further information about the 60th London Film Festival visit here.
Read more reviews from the festival here.
Watch the trailer for Christine here:
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