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2016 London Film Festival Review: Christine – “Rebecca Hall is hypnotic”

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Christine sees Rebecca Hall in the performance of her career as she portrays American TV news reporter, Christine Chubbuck. Chubbuck committed suicide live on television during a news broadcast, back in the 70s, and this is the story of what led to that event, exploring Chubbuck’s life and those of the people around her.

Though her death takes place at the end of the film, it lessens none of the impact knowing that it is coming. The film looks at depression and mental illness with incredible care, always seeking to understand rather than exploit. It explores Christine’s ‘moods’ but it also looks at the reaction of those around her and really starts to show just how much of a challenge it is to care for people when they’re suffering from mental health issues. Hall does a remarkable job of playing a fairly unlikeable character whilst somehow retaining a level of fascination and intrigue that keeps viewers hooked. Christine is brusque with her colleagues, refuses help when it is offered, is loud and insulting when she doesn’t get her own way – and yet she remains interesting.

She is also desperately unhappy, lonely and frustrated with her life and where it’s going (or not, in her case). She sees no good in what she has achieved and really struggles to impress people, play the game or basically be the approachable, warm and inviting person she is expected to be.

Set against the very 70s backdrop (the set designs and wardrobe alone are a thing of beauty!) and the ongoing impeachment case of President Nixon, the story manages to root itself in something bigger than just one woman. And yet she is at the very heart of this story. Her boss is frequently telling her to make her stories more juicy to improve the show’s ratings and though, at first, he is painted to be something of a villain of the piece, it quickly becomes clear that he is just a desperate man trying to keep his job and look after the jobs of all the people in his team. Everyone is under pressure and making mistakes along the way: her boss, her mother, even her president. The film doesn’t shy away from these imperfections.

Rebecca Hall is hypnotic. Yet, as impressive as the film is, Christine is not an easy watch. It is hugely unsettling and will linger long after the credits have finished. But it is so important, raising questions about mental health: both in terms of support for those suffering and understanding of those around them. This could so easily have become the very blood and guts Christine is so sick of but, under the guidance of director Antonio Campos, it is a careful study of the people involved rather than an exploitative look at that one event.

4-out-of-5

More London Film Festival coverage

More info over at the BFI

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