Review: Anne at 13,000 Ft.

Director: Kazik Radwanski

Stars: Deragh Campbell, Dorothea Paas, Matt Johnson

Surfacing in the UK on MUBI two years after its festival debut, Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 Ft. is a breath of fresh air searching for space in our current cinematic landscape. Over a trim 75 minutes, Radwanski presents us Anne (Deragh Campbell); a frustrated daycare assistant; a free-spirited introvert; a woman who – like the film itself – is fighting to be heard.

As she takes lessons in skydiving, Anne begins to feel less tethered to the Earth and, in the process, less keen to suffer the irritants of the world around her, be that micro-management at work, the creeping lechery of older male parents or the flakiness of a new guy in her life. The Anne we’re presented with has a childlike sensibility that seems frequently at odds with the banality of her everyday life. She’s witty, funny, great with the kids in her care, but gets burned out quickly. Her growing interest in skydiving suggests an urge to wholesale escape the mundanity and inadequacy of everything else.

For her part, Campbell (who evidently had great input into the character) is wonderfully magnetic in the role, projecting honesty and an openness that recalls the flintiness of Mia Wasikowska or fellow-Canadian Sarah Polley, but retaining an energy that is all her own. As the title suggests, this is a pure character piece, and Campbell throws herself into it with generous results.

Radwanski’s opening scattergun approach to narrative – splicing scenes, collaging time, creating a mosaic of a life – works wonders in terms of evoking the hectic, agitated micro-climate of his protagonist and her ADHD sensibilities. With a camera that roams and surrounds its subject, his approach recalls the sensual overload of Josephine Decker in the most flattering of ways, but overall Anne at 13,000 Ft. tilts to the studied history of social realism.

Settling into more traditional narrative motions, the movie documents Anne’s misadventures at a friend’s wedding, where she has a messy meet-cute with nerdy Matt (Matt Johnson). These interactions are small joys in and of themselves, regardless of concerns for a larger overarching story. Anne at 13,000 Ft. celebrates the impulsiveness of the moment. In keeping with this, the stop-start relationship that follows typifies just why Anne prefers such immediacy.

Ultimately, this is a portrait in miniature of a person-in-progress, evidenced most keenly by the film’s final shot, which leaves Anne in free fall. We’re invited to view a portion of her, no more no less. Her continued evolution is implicit.

Right now, the new James Bond film is suffocating cinemas. My local modest multiplex is managing 22 showings per day. I’ve heard of larger units carrying more than 40 showings per day. Our local Picturehouse – supposedly a haven for alternative films – is offering no alternatives whatsoever. Bond is all that’s on. Films like Anne at 13,000 Ft. (less than half the length of No Time to Die) obviously won’t satisfy demand in the same way. That’s just the realities of business and the popularity of franchises. But there ought to be some space for Anne. As it is, MUBI is proving to be a lifeline for finding and seeing these vivid and creative missives from around the world. I just wish I could’ve seen it writ large in the magical dark of a movie theatre. It deserves the applicable attention.

 

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