Madeline's Madeline ★★★★

Suffocating by design, Madeline's Madeline is a mostly brilliant turn by everyone involved. The movie does what I think other films about illness forget to do, which is it uses its format to further involve you in the current events. Josephine Decker gives us this visionary viewpoint right from the opening frame, and almost never lets you out of it.

This isn't a film about understanding illness so much as it is wary of how illness can be exploited. The way it racks into focus and out again, cutting to different aspects of a person's features while they're talking, it's wonderful way to allow you to engage with Madeline without resorting to lazy exposition. She isn't completely without fault, but you get the sense that she's taking her cues from those closest to her, trying to prove to everyone and herself that things aren't so black and white. Helena Howard excels at portraying this, and there's an image of her crying out that I don't think I'm going to forget for a long time.

Molly Parker also turns in a subtly powerful performance as the director of this animal troupe, appearing secure in her vision, but prone to reworking and reshaping with little regard to progress. You can watch each decision weigh on her, and further into the film as she sets her sights on Madeline, it's disturbing the kind of ease with which operates.

It's all a sensory experience. It's not made to be comfortable, or respectful of your boundaries. The soundtrack is beautiful, capturing the aura of rehearsal and simultaneously adding a tribal element that's in line with Madeline's treatment and the play she's a part of. This is art house that's concerned with being art, not inaccessible. The ending does let it down I feel, but it's relatively a small part of the whole. To me it's not about where you land, but what you take away from being thrust into the jagged insights of a crowded mind.