Director: Antonio Campos
Screenplay: Craig Shilowich
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith-Cameron, John Cullum, Timothy Simons
Runtime: 119 Minutes
Much like Antonio Campos’s last film Simon Killer, which concerned the lead characters sociopathic penchants, Christine is the depiction of the final days in the life of Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall); a news reporter whose ongoing battle with depression led to her eventual suicide in 1974, which was horrifyingly broadcast live on air.
The film actually appears to owe a debt to Sidney Lumet’s Network, in that there’s a commentary on the pressures of western media’s approach towards sexualisation, regarding not only gender but violence and its place in the popular consciousness. Chubbuck is attentive and intelligent, but broken and battered into woeful submission by an industry increasingly dependent on shock and awe to sell to an audience, being constantly berated by the higher-ups to leave her mark while repressing the magnitude of her voice.
It doesn’t help that she holds varying degrees of intensity towards the people around her. Chubbuck is a career driven professional to a near passive aggressive degree of indifference; a virgin simultaneously ashamed and alienated by her own sexuality, made worse by the impending removal of one of her ovaries. The depression that seeps into the forefront of the story feels like a long, untapped sadness and silence that has until now gone unnoticed by those not around her. A woman so cold and disconnected from ordinary human emotion, yet aching for a relationship with anyone but being unable too, for reasons of blame that are thrust upon her encompassing idealistic friend (Maria Dizzia) and mother, Peg (J. Smith-Cameron) - unable to raise her properly within the real world as she continues to ride the high of cultural revolution.
Rebecca Hall is absolutely terrific, delivering an earth-shattering performance of deep and earthy stoicism, occasionally broken by unkempt and boiling rage. Her scowling demeanour carries the eyes of someone on the verge of isolated collapse. The film itself is cut and edited like a hacked to the bone news feature, with a tightness to its frame of mind and stripped down and passé direction that keeps its dramatic focus as its most important element.
The screenplay by first-time writer Craig Shilowich is as persistent as its lead in her search for a compelling story, and largely succeeds in its representation of depression. It may be built up around the foundations of her relationship desires a little too much at times, but her infatuation with Michael C. Hall’s anchor is forceful to watch in the moments where Chubbuck is at her most vulnerable. It feels as though there should be more focus on the growing dread and instability of her mental disposition, instead of resorting to a dramatic note that’s dangerously close to approaching a woman scorned narrative, but then again the effect of the climax might not be quite as shocking in impact.
Christine is the first exploitation of this story this year (the other being the documentary Kate Plays Christine), although significantly more dramatic in embellishment it covers more simple bullet points, with a cavity filling performance from Rebecca Hall.