Hot Press - - Critical Mass -

Di­rected by An­to­nio Cam­pos. Star­ring Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith-Cameron, John Cul­lum. 119 mins. In cin­e­mas now.

4/5 Rebecca Hall is cap­ti­vat­ing in

shock­ing and un­nerv­ing true story “In keep­ing with Chan­nel 40’s pol­icy of bring­ing you the lat­est in blood and guts, and in liv­ing colour – you are go­ing to see an­other TV first: at­tempted sui­cide.”

With that state­ment, 29-year-old news re­porter Chris­tine Chub­buck shot and killed her­self on air. It was 1979, and Chris­tine is An­to­nio Cam­pos’s retelling of her fi­nal weeks.

Chris­tine is pre­sented as a de­ter­mined yet trou­bled woman. Plagued by de­pres­sion, para­noia and a des­per­ate need, her de­sire to suc­ceed at work seems to spring from the aware­ness that she’s fail­ing to hit other life mile­stones. At 29, she has never had sex or a re­la­tion­ship, and lives with her un­der­stand­ably con­cerned mother. De­spite her ef­forts, Chris­tine isn’t im­press­ing at work. The news sta­tion is lean­ing to­wards sen­sa­tion­al­ist fare, with the new motto be­ing “If it bleeds, it leads.”

The sta­tion is right about au­di­ences, as Chris­tine’s car crash of emo­tions proves mes­meris­ing. Rebecca Hall, un­fairly ig­nored by awards cer­e­monies this year, is elec­tri­fy­ing in the role. Her Chris­tine is hard and an­gu­lar in ev­ery sense. Trans­form­ing her tall frame into a hunched, jud­der­ing force, and steel­ing her fea­tures into an im­pen­e­tra­ble frown, Hall presents Chris­tine as some­one des­per­ately ill-at-ease with her­self and the world. She does not fit, and her jan­gling, of­ten manic at­tempts to do so merely high­light her strug­gles more.

Cam­pos’ de­lib­er­ately still cam­er­a­work cap­tures Chris­tine’s sense of dis­cord, with the eerie calm of her sur­round­ings em­pha­sis­ing her fit­ful de­pres­sion.

Sound de­signer Coll An­der­son, mean­while, also un­der­scores this jux­ta­po­si­tion, mak­ing Chris­tine’s headspace sub­tly buzz with un­com­fort­able dense­ness.

Cam­pos knows that Chub­buck’s mo­ti­va­tions will never be clear – thus, Chris­tine isn’t an ex­plana­tory ac­count, but rather an ex­quis­ite and un­nerv­ing ex­plo­ration of her psy­che. You won’t be able to look away.

Rebecca Hall

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