As High As The Sky


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

As High As The Sky
"It's hard to believe this is Braendlin's feature film debut."

Have you ever looked at a home decor catalogue and asked yourself, Who would live in a house like this? Margaret (Caroline Fogarty) does. She not only lives in it, she grooms it, walking around with mope attached to her feet, constantly rearranging the angle of pictures and the exact position of vases. Her bĂȘte noire is the sofa, for which she simply cannot find the right cushions. Since she split up with Michael, this has been bothering her more. But she's over the split. It was a while ago and she's fine now, really.

At least, she thinks she's fine, until her sister and ten-year-old niece arrive.

Copy picture

Josephine (Bonnie McNeil) is Margaret's opposite, a happy go lucky woman who has spent her life wandering from place to place making discoveries and having adventures. She's always managed to get by, but for all her experience, she's ever quite got her head around her sister's behaviour. The stage is thus set for an odd couple comedy, but this is a film that delves deeper. Margaret and Josephine share a tragic past. Margaret is still bullied by the aunts who raised her, and despite her successful career as a party planner, she's acutely lonely. Josephine, meanwhile, is facing up to a problem in her own life that could change everything. And Hannah, her daughter, faces more than the usual problems in trying to identify a path through encroaching adolescence.

In this latter role, Laurel Porter is a standout, showing tremendous range and contributing to the story on more than even terms. Retaining an entirely natural youthful quality that emphasises her character's vulnerability, she nevertheless gets some of the script's most biting lines and delivers them with assurance. This helps to balance a film that deals with some heavily emotive issues. In places it is treading ground that has been trodden many times before, but it does so with maturity, allowing the well drawn characters room to breathe.

Perhaps most interesting is the film's handling of social awkwardness, in varied forms. This sometimes risks alienating the viewer but dares us to go along with a shifting narrative just as Margaret begins to. It's interesting to see the OCD she suffers from depicted by a director with the same problem. Here, it never feel in one's face - this is not an issue film, and Margaret is no mere cypher - but it's nevertheless there throughout, shaping the character and her relationships, and Braendlin's deft approach means we can really sense the pain the other characters' untidiness inflicts. It's hard to believe this is her feature film debut.

A nod must also go to cinematographer Tarin Anderson, who brings those catalogues to life with precision images of Margaret's unlivable home, then seamlessly switches tone as we enter the disorganised world of the interlopers. Her photography makes the house itself a character, initially blank like Margaret, studiously unmoved, but gradually taking form. The blankness makes it seem like a public space. We are invited in, to wander. We might find it surprisingly hard to leave.

Reviewed on: 09 May 2014
Share this with others on...
As High As The Sky packshot
A OCD-afflicted woman struggling to cope with a break-up finds her life plunged into chaos when her sister and niece arrive out of the blue.
Amazon link

Director: Nikki Braendlin

Writer: Nikki Braendlin

Starring: Caroline Fogarty, Bonnie McNeil, Laurel Porter

Year: 2013

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: US


Search database: