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.