VOD film review: Anne at 13,000 Feet
Shaky camera overload6
Bianca Garner | On 29, Sep 2021
Director: Kazik Radwanski
Cast: Deragh Campbell, Dorothea Paas
Watch Anne at 13,000 Feet online in the UK: MUBI UK
Depicting depression in film is often a hard task, as everyone experiences depression in a different manner and intensity. Often in cinema, we see depression being depicted as a character feeling sad and withdrawn, however in reality depression affects an individual in a more complex emotional way. Depression is more than simply feeling sad.
The protagonist of Kazik Radwanski’s latest film Anne at 13,000 Feet is a perfect demonstration of how complex an illness depression actually is. Over the course of 75 minutes, we watch as Anne’s life begins to unravel and her behaviour becomes more erratic. It is only through the act of skydiving that Anne feels any form of euphoria. The act of free-falling allows Anne to feel truly alive; it’s the only time we see her display any genuine emotion.
When we are first introduced to Anne (played wonderfully by Deragh Campbell), her life seems pleasant enough. She works for a children’s daytime centre and, while she seems distant from the other employees except for her best friend Sarah (Dorothea Paas), Anne seems to be naturally gifted with the children. The film opens with a beautiful moment of Anne showing the children a butterfly and allowing them to interact with the insect; we cannot help but wonder whether Anne wishes she was like the butterfly, free and able to fly away whenever the situation gets too tough to handle.
Intercut with these scenes of Anne and the children, we see Anne and Sarah partaking in a skydiving session for Sarah’s hen party. At first she seems anxious about jumping out of a plane but, as she falls through the sky, something lights up in her. We think at first she may have passed out, but perhaps she is so overwhelmed by emotion that she has simply let go of all her worries.
On the ground, Anne’s life seems chaotic. She clashes with another teacher at work who tells her off for being unfocused and having a hot drink in the classroom. Anne’s personal life is just as volatile, with a new relationship with Matt (Matt Johnson) already off to a shaky start when she unexpectedly takes him to meet her family without telling them that she had a new partner.
Although it’s not stated that Anne has bipolar depression, her behaviour seems to imply that this may be what’s plaguing her. Campbell brilliantly demonstrates how those with bipolar can experience bouts of mania, and we see moments where Anne can’t help laughing hysterically and being hyperactive, only for her mood to swiftly change. It is during these moments where we see a different side to Anne. More often than not, she’s quiet and withdrawn, Campbell’s wide-eyed expression creating the impression of a deer stuck in the headlights. This is well and truly Campbell’s picture and she holds it all together so magnificently.
However, there are elements of the film that don’t seem to work as well. A possible romantic relationship with one of the children’s father seems like a wasted subplot, and Anne’s other relationships with her mother and sisters are hardly explored. At times, the film’s handheld camerawork by cinematographer Nikolay Michaylov is used to great effect, especially to capture the raw emotion on display from Campbell but, at others, it is distracting and vertigo-inducing and becomes just a little too much.
The main issue with the film is its rather short runtime and frustrating, abrupt ending, although it can be read as a reflection on life; nothing feels resolved in the film and we are left wondering whether Anne’s loved ones will help her get the professional and medical care that she clearly requires.
Aside from these minor issues, Anne at 13,000 Feet is one of the most honest depictions of bipolar depression that you will come across. One just wishes that the director had given us more hope for Anne; we could all do with some reassurance that treatment and help for the condition is possible.
Anne at 13,000 Ft is now available on MUBI UK, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription.
This review was originally published during the 2020 Canada Now Film Festival.