The on-air suicide of news reporter Christine Chubbuck has long been considered one of television’s most shocking moments. Behind that tragic event lies a troubling story of a young woman’s loneliness, self-doubt and severe depression. The movie “Christine” sets out to explore the final few days of Christine Chubbuck’s life right to its violent end on live tv.
Craig Shilowich wrote the script after feeling a deep personal connection to Chubbuck’s story. His own seven-year bout with depression inspired him to explore the issues that could have drawn Chubbuck to such a drastic final act. Shilowich interviewed family and coworkers in an attempt to piece together Christine’s state of mind. Director Antonio Campos allows Shilowich’s story to slowly boil which is perceptive but also harrowing since we know how it will end.
Christine Chubbock is played by Rebecca Hall who gives us a remarkable performance that burrows deep beneath her character’s fragile surface. Hall’s physical and mental transformation show an intense level of commitment that draws us deeper into the story. Hall’s method is somber and restrained which helps her to visualize the crippling effects of depression.
The film explores several areas of Chubbock’s life, each contributing to her troubled mental state. First is her personal life, specifically her lack of companionship. Campos puts a heavy emphasis on Chubbock’s loneliness. Her past is hinted at through references and the relationship with her mother offers some of Christine’s most vulnerable and perceptive moments.
We also spend a lot of time in her workplace – a Sarasota, Florida television station. Her main focus as a news reporter was on local community pieces. This puts her at odds with her abrasive and mildly chauvinist boss (Tracy Letts) who pushes for more sensationalism in her stories. She also finds herself lagging behind her competition for a new promotion in a bigger news market. There’s even a sudden health issue she is forced to deal with.
Subtly the film grows more unnerving with each step forward. Campos methodically puts together the pieces of this story and it’s tough to endure knowing the tragic finale that lies ahead. The presentation is authentic thanks to dashes of retro 70’s detail. The performances are superb especially from Hall who should be mentioned among the best of the year. But the real punch comes from the story itself, a mournful heart-breaking account of Christine Chubbuck’s final days. The filmmakers understand that which makes “Christine” all the more powerful.
VERDICT – 4 STARS
This story is just so sad. Haven’t seen it, but am aware of who this journalist was. I’m glad to know the treatment of her final days is handled with care and respect. I’ve been waiting to see Rebecca Hall in a more substantive role like this. Nice look at this movie.
You are so right. Devastating story and the film captures every facet of her emotional decline. Hall deserved Awards attention for her performance. Absolutely crushing.
A tough movie to get right but looks like they did.
They really did. They wisely narrowed their focus and didn’t try to cover too much. The movie definitely benefits from that.
Really excited for this one, was a big fan of Simon Killer which was the previous effort from this director.
I haven’t seen Simon Killer. Sounds like it’s worth checking out.
Great review. This movie was so good. It could’ve been a disaster, or exploitative, but it never was. Hall was robbed of an Oscar nomination.
I think you and I have talked about this one on Twitter. You were so right. The movie was exploitative and Hall absolutely deserved an Oscar nod. But you know, we have to wedge Streep in every year!
This sounds like a difficult movie to watch, but a beneficial one that is also illuminating and tragic.
It’s tough for sure mainly because you know the tragic end and you watch the painful movement towards that end.
I get that. Sounds like this poor woman was tormented on almost every level.
Hall’s performance is just so far and above for me from what every actress nominated performance (out of the ones I saw) was…it just shows how unfair this is. The film had a modest distribution, but if it was bigger and a campaign was done for Rebecca she would have won or at least be nominated, She is such a terrific actress, I rewatched the Prestige the other day and she does so much with so little there.
I think she’s a tremendous actress who goes for the most part underappreciated. She is incredible in Christine. Deserved awards attention for sure.
Really liked Hall’s performance in this – not showy, just playing it straight – it’s strong, consistent, totally anchors the film (no pun intended). I’m not sure if I’d watch this again but I did enjoy it.
Totally agree. Can’t say it’s a film I’m hungry to see again. It’s a really tough watch. Knowing what’s coming made every scene so tragic.