I remember when Rebecca Hall did Starter for Ten back in 2006. She played her part well but the most notable thing about her then was that she was the daughter of RSC director Peter Hall. Of course now, after impressive performances in a range of films including Frost/Nixon, The Town, Iron Man 3, Transcendence and The BFG, in many quarters she is more famous than he is. Christine marks a real step forward for her though. She has taken the lead before, in the entertaining but inconsequential gothic horror The Awakening, but she’s never been this good before. (Personally I believe her best work up until now has been opposite fellow Starter for Ten cast member Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC’s Parade’s End.)
Christine tells the true story of Christine Chubbuck, the local US news reporter who found fame in 1974 when she had some kind of horrible meltdown and finished off a broadcast and her career in the most self-destructive manner imaginable. Her precise actions are a matter of public record but for those people that may not know the details I will not discuss them here. Most of the publicity has given the game away which I actually think was a mistake. I get that you are not dealing with spoilers when replaying historical events but the standard description of this film has been akin to saying The Sixth Sense is the movie about a child psychologist who doesn’t realise he’s a ghost.
What I will discuss is Christine‘s superb depiction of someone struggling with depression and paranoia. When we meet the title character she has clearly suffered mental illness in the past and it is genuinely hard to see her slipping back into mania and terrible self doubt. This isn’t a movie style breakdown, this isn’t Black Swan, it is a painfully real representation of what many people struggle with. As suggested, Hall is brilliant. Her work here moves from subtle to raw but is never grandstanding and is always believable.
The things in her life are just context and a little like a straight version of Anchorman but they are not the draw. You see her in the newsroom but she might as well be in any workplace. It is significant that she is in the public eye but this isn’t a story about the destructive pressures of performance, this still isn’t Black Swan, it is more relatable and as a result more important than that. Coming out now it is being overshadowed by all the big Oscar movies but Christine Chubbuck’s story should be told because it raises real awareness of clinical depression. If it helps one person notice the signs of this in someone else then that is better than a hundred awards.