Anne At 13,000 ft

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Anne At 13,000 ft
"It takes real craft to hold something like this together for 75 minutes - not to mention tremendous effort on Campbell's part." | Photo: Cinema Guild

What does it take to work successfully with young children? It helps to be able to get into their mindset, to understand how they see the world. Sharing that mindset on a full time basis is not so helpful.

Anne (Deragh Campbell) has jumped out of a plane. Is that in the past or the present? At first it’s unclear. Gradually we come to register that the scene we should perceive as now is the one where she is crouching down, surrounded by a group of kids, carefully showing them a butterfly. The parachute jump was some time previously, at her friend Sarah’s hen party. But in her mind, Anne is still falling.

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That somebody this wildly unstable would be caring for kids is something that many viewers will find terrifying. She comes into work late or drunk, she frequently seems to forget that they’re there, and when she’s called out on it she complains that her supervisor is picking on her. Everything is always somebody else’s fault. So why is she there? There’s no doubt that her chaotic streak gives her a charismatic appeal to kids and adults alike, but certain scenes – especially those where she talks with her mother – hint at something else. Everyone who has known her for any length of time handles her with kid gloves. It emerges that Sarah (Dorothea Paas), who habitually covers up her mistakes, helped her to get the job. Was she, perhaps, institutionalised beforehand, or did something else happed that they’re trying to help her recover from?

There are a lot of questions and a lot of clues in a film which lurches from one thing to another much like Anne herself. The child actors improvised their lines but they don’t seem significantly less coherent. Director Kazik Radwanski presses in close and shoots in close-up like a curious child for most of the running time. Editor Ajla Odobasic cuts scenes halfway through sentences, the way Anne cuts people off. Anne doesn’t seem fully cognisant of other people’s existence and the shooting style places us somewhere similar despite – quite intentionally – never really letting us learn very much about who she is.

Perhaps Anne doesn’t know. She’s all bluff and bluster, making up stories and fluent excuses, possible manic depressive, always swinging from one joyous high (sometimes literally) to a dismal low, appealing to other with her sense of fun or with her childlike helplessness until all of a sudden it’s too much and they feel like they’re being used. Curiously, despite her carelessness, nobody seems to be using her, and she has a habit of reeling back from potentially dangerous situations at the last minute, suggesting that she’s sharper, really, than she lets on.

The experience of all this is a bit like that of watching a wild horse charging around a paddock – a fantastic sight at times, but rather less so when there are four-year-old children in the paddock too. It’s hard to look away as you anticipate disaster. But this is, of course, carefully sculpted chaos. Radwanski and Campbell spent two years developing the project together. It takes real craft to hold something like this together for 75 minutes - not to mention tremendous effort on Campbell's part. It’s a bold and truly original piece of independent filmmaking – one which, come awards season, might give the big players a surprise or two.

Reviewed on: 03 Sep 2021
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Anne At 13,000 ft packshot
Even in her job at a children’s day care centre, Anne prefers fun to actual work and often alienates those around her with her erratic behaviour.

Director: Kazik Radwanski

Writer: Kazik Radwanski, Deragh Campbell

Starring: Deragh Campbell, Matt Johnson, Dorothea Paas, Lawrene Denkers

Year: 2019

Runtime: 75 minutes

Country: Canada, US


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