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[TIFF 2019] REVIEW - Anne at 13,000 ft (Kazik Radwanski)

Capturing the mundane nuances of urban/suburban life doesn’t always make for the most compelling cinema. But when it’s done right, these types of cinematic narratives can become exhilarating experiences that tug right into our humanistic tendencies by threading the line between reality and fiction. Kazik Radwanski does exactly that with Anne at 13,000 ft. It’s not the most exciting of films, but it’s certainly a striking effort worthy of thoughtful consideration.

Set in the beautiful urban neighbourhoods of Toronto, the film revolves around Anne (Deragh Campbell), a daycare worker who attempts skydiving for the first time at the beginning of the film. Although never overtly identified, it’s clear from the very beginning that Anne suffers from some form of an anxiety disorder, which clearly affects both her personal and professional life. Jumping off from her desire and interest in skydiving, the film continues to leap across emotional boundaries as it explores Anne’s self-destructive personality in the most compelling way.

It’s hard to comment about Anne at 13,000 ft without acknowledging the powerhouse performance of its lead actress. Campbell continues to emerge as a rising star in the Canadian film industry, and the way she commands the screen is quite remarkable. She’s literally in every scene of the film, yet despite how mentally exhaustive her character is, Campbell manages to subdue any emotional outbursts until the exact right moments. Her portrayal of Anne is actually quite subdued, which is such an interesting contrast, which seems like such a difficult task for actors. That is, to be able to deliver repressed social and emotional angst in both a clear and subtle way.

The same could be said of Radwanski, whose work is definitely something to look out for in the years to come. With Anne at 13,000 ft, he proves himself to be an extremely competent and assured filmmaker, and clearly has a strong sense of what he wants. In exploring Anne’s rather destructive path in life, he never takes any short cuts and always follows through with a sense of realism. The film almost feels like a documentary, but retains enough cinematic qualities to remind viewers of its narrative medium.

What really stood out for me after watching Anne at 13,000 ft was how well it explored the struggles of mental health, without ever labelling it directly. A psychiatrist could probably have a field day throwing diagnostic conditions onto Anne, but this is never stated in the film, as it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that viewers feel what her character is feeling, and by the end of the film, the struggle and difficulties are actually genuinely felt. Thanks to a talented filmmaking team, feeling empathy for Anne becomes a very natural thing that seems to happen with ease. The film will take you on a deeply emotional journey, and it's definitely a journey worth taking.


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