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Shot almost entirely in close-up, the latest film by the Canadian filmmaker Kazik Radwanski feels simultaneously open and intensely claustrophobic, the camera fixated on a character who would prefer to escape from reality.
We first see Anne (Deragh Campbell) in a montage that juxtaposes images of her in her job at a day-care centre, carefully showing the children a beautiful live butterfly, with shots of her skydiving. The two activities are polar opposites in terms of intensity, but each offers a perspective of a different scale from that of everyday, adult life: Anne’s responsibilities at work and the tensions with her family can all be momentarily forgotten in the contemplation of the details of a butterfly or in the feeling of flying.
Anne’s interest in immediate sensations (as opposed to careful planning and big-picture thinking) seems to make her a firm favourite with the children at day care, but not so much with colleagues, parents, and the world of grown-ups at large. She objects to any and all reminders of the rules and conventions of adult life, either teasing the baffled people trying to uphold them, or actually getting angry.
The film’s tight compositions mostly keep that responsible and serious world out, all the while emphasising Anne’s apparent determination to live moment to moment, always entirely in the present. It is never made clear why she behaves like this – only the very patient, gentle and delicate way her mother talks to her gives any sense of what must have been a fraught and painful past. In those moments of connection, the camera lets Anne’s mother in, doing the same with the other people that the young woman cares to listen to.
A highlight of the film is the meet-cute at a friend’s wedding between her and Matt (played by filmmaker and actor Matt Johnson). Her awkward but sincere maid-of-honour speech is what first piques his interest, and the two initially appear well-matched in their appreciation for childish things, while his openness and sense of humour are apparently the perfect tools to handle Anne’s oddness. But while he does not take himself too seriously, Anne goes out of her way to undermine even the most benign social conventions, notably when she wilfully puts Matt in an embarrassing position in front of her family. Campbell’s performance carries what is sometimes an uncomfortable but always engaging film – one that recalls John Cassavetes’s A Woman Under the Influence (1974) in the way it remains attuned and sympathetic to a troubled but fascinating protagonist.
Originally published: 23 November 2021