BFI London Film Festival: Christine


Directed by Antonio Campos
Starring Rebecca Hall, Michael C Hall and Tracy Letts

by Joanna Orland

Christine is a character study of the real life news anchor Christine Chubbuck, famed for committing suicide during a live broadcast in the 1970’s.  Rebecca Hall gives a brilliant performance in this tragic and bleak story, showing much restraint in moments that could have otherwise been filled with melodrama or caricature.

The film begins with an examination of Christine’s life in the weeks leading up to her suicide.  She is a lonely woman, has a history of depression, lives with her mother with whom her relationship is at times tumultuous, the man she loves barely knows she exists, and she has been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst which may make it difficult for her to conceive.  Most notably, she is not garnering the respect at work that she feels is owed to her.  She considers herself a serious journalist, whereas her superiors are hoping to sensationalize the news.  All of this builds up to the film’s finale where you can understand Christine’s motivation behind taking her own life while live on air.

As the story of Christine Chubbuck is a well known one, there is no air of mystery as to how this film will conclude.  The director foreshadows it with a strong arm, using sound design to imply a gun firing in more mundane moments – for example, a door closing behind Christine has the same audio qualities as a gun shot.  This happens numerous times throughout the film and somewhat cheapens the character arc which is being played out.  The audience knows what is to come, there is nothing gained by overtly hinting to it.  Subtlety would have been a better approach here.

Overall, Christine is a slow and bleak watch, weak in narrative but rich in character and performance.  Rebecca Hall delivers a career best in this tragic tale.





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