Directed by: Antonio Campos
Written by: Craig Shilowich
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith-Cameron
The adage “life isn’t fair” gets thrown around when things don’t go the way people think certain events will transpire, especially if they work hard trying to achieve something. As much as we like to believe meritocracy drives success in this nation, it all comes down to timing and whatever those in charge see as acceptable. Expectedly, this has an impact on employees who sit outside the bubble, which we see in the tragedy of Christine.
Living with her mother and working at a local news station in Sarasota, Florida, Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall) attempts to tell important stories, which clashes with the wishes of her producers. When the opportunity for someone on her team to join a station in Baltimore, Christine attempts to acquiesce and find a story that will get her noticed.
News typically works on two main levels, which include national and local. As their titles suggest, the target audience shifts the types of stories they focus on, but as shown in several films about media, the more scandalous, the more viewers a station will receive. Having this focus takes away from more important stories needing to be told by dedicated reporters. Christine finds herself in this predicament. She attempts to grab stories that will make a difference in the community, but it does not help with the dwindling ratings their station receives. This adds to the never-ending cycle, which has now gone to internet news, where more outlandish material gets the desired attention and ad revenue these companies want. This film takes a look at it from the side of a small town in Florida where not much occurs. It makes the circumstances more difficult to compare than something like Nightcrawler, where the streets of Los Angeles provide a plethora of material. Sarasota does not give enough, thus creating this large challenge for our protagonist.
As much as Christine speaks on media, it mostly centers on Christine Chubbuck as a person and how depression and life circumstances cause her to do something drastic. As someone who has never battled with depression, I was interested in seeing how this depiction lines up and I found some saying it knocks it out of the park and others saying quite the opposite. On my account, the depiction succeeds because of the performance by Rebecca Hall, as she fully encapsulates this horrifying battle and how it stops her from connecting in ways she would prefer.
An unsung hero in many films, Rebecca Hall fully drags this film up to be a success because her dynamic performance brings this character to the screen. Based on a real person, she provides all the necessary facets to display how depression looks for this particular person. All the signs make themself clear from her body language to the way she backs out of certain social and relational situations. She has trouble asking for help and tries to push away any sort of support along the way. Instead, she focuses solely on trying to get the move to Baltimore going, and realizing her circumstance comes as a rude awakening for her mental health. Hall handles every outburst and meek look with such precision in a truly strong performance, which deserves boundless appreciation.
Not knowing the events taking place in this film make the climax a surprise, but looking back on it shows a gradual incline into what will define this film. It meshes the mental health battle Christine faces with the pressures of her job to have no real integrity to garner money. A dangerous combination for all involved, especially for the wellbeing of the employees trying to do something meaningful. It creates a divide between those hoping to make a difference and the management trying to ensure everyone keeps their job. A constant struggle in journalism, which still exists today, unfortunately.
Haunting as a tale overall but also tragic in the way it displays the struggle of battling depression, Christine gets carried by a tremendous performance by Rebecca Hall but also introduces me to Antonio Campos as a filmmaker. Together they create a portrait of pain where happiness becomes a reprieve in the few moments it appears. An indictment on what media companies must resort to for financial success and overall a very well-done film.