Typist Artist Pirate King
Inspired by the real-life diaries and letters penned by forgotten British artist Audrey Amiss, writer-director Carol Morley takes these documented fragments of Amiss’s life and weaves them into a joyous road trip movie brimming with heart and tenderness. Although the destination doesn’t make for a fulfilling conclusion, the journey itself is consistently outstanding.
A once-promising artist whose career was interrupted by mental illness, Audrey (played by a riotous Monica Dolan) convinces her psychiatric nurse, Sandra (Kelly Macdonald), to drive her from London to her hometown of Sunderland where she plans to exhibit her expansive collection of work. The pair set off in Sandra’s bright yellow electric Nissan named Sunshine and make the long journey along country roads, meeting people Audrey mistakes as characters from her past and getting into strange, sometimes even surreal, situations along the way.
Dolan is the beating heart of this film as Audrey, whose chaotic personality and unique insight into the world around her paint her as an eccentric character with a fabulous sense of humour and sharp intellect. She listens to punk music at full blast while working on her art, matter-of-factly tells Sandra that she’s “done a wee” in the bathwater she’s left for her, and she embraces an opportunity to join in with some Morris dancing. Dolan delivers every line with conviction and high spirits, giving viewers a strong sense of who this artist was as a person. Morely likewise reflects Amiss’s personality by intercutting snippets of her abstract (and often amusing) sketches and stream-of-consciousness diary extracts throughout her film, making this flick just as much a celebratory collage of the artist’s work than anything else. Macdonald is equally spectacular, adding to the compassion behind the script.
Travelling with the pair is like journeying back through Audrey’s life and she gets closer to the site of childhood trauma. Audrey’s confusion caused by her illness and subsequent erratic behaviour cause tension to grow between the artist and her companion. However, Morely resists the urge to glorify or fetishise Audrey’s mental illness. Rather, her disability is framed as a reason for why she’s able to see the world as she does.
It’s only when the trip nears its end that the wheels start to come off due to a rushed revelation and some out-of-place imagery. Despite this final bump in the road, though, Typist Artist Pirate King is a wondrous tribute to a forgotten artist.
Typist Artist Pirate King is released nationwide on 27th October 2023.
Watch the trailer for Typist Artist Pirate King here: