An Angel at My Table

An Angel at My Table ★★★★

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Jane Campion

A drastic and welcome departure from the heightened unpleasantness of Sweetie. This feels like a director that has made ten films already and the combination of Campion's steady hand, the novelistic structure, and the content of the film itself made for a calming watch that I thoroughly enjoyed. That's not to say it's all sunshine- your heart just absolutely breaks for Janet as she tries her best to live life in a society she doesn't quite fit in with. It's the kind of movie protagonist that you want to put in bubble wrapped isolation so no one can hurt their feelings. Played by three different actors across the film's three chapters, we track the author's life from youth to adulthood with times of bliss but just as often times of great emotional distress. Each chapter is compelling in its own way and digs into familiar emotional concerns even when the plot is thoroughly tied to the time period (in particular there is an extended sequence resulting from the terrifyingly antiquated treatment of her mental health). Narration provides some insight into the "real" Janet but if there is a central complaint here it's that the interiority I'm sure her autobiographical writing lends her can't quite translate to the screen, at times keeping her at too far a distance. Those three performances can mostly bridge the gap though, particularly Kerry Fox's in the final chapter who can get across so much with a nervous look.