Underrated movie of the week: CHRISTINE

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This week contributor Vjekoslav Rosandić looks at a film that was unfairly shunned last year, despite receiving rave reviews from Sundance: Antonio Campos' "Christine." I spoke last year to Rebecca Hall about her impressive transformation as Christine Chubbuck [HERE] Suffice to say, I was just as smitten by the film as Vjekoslav was. 

By Vjekoslav Rosandić

"Christine" is a one of a kind film. It's a film that deals with mental illness in compassionate, emphatic and yet, the most matter of fact way I've ever seen. It's a very important film, one that transcends its cinematic boundaries and actually has the power to heal. 

In order to properly discuss "Christine, I need to let you know what happens to the main character. Christine Chubbuck was a news reporter for a local Florida based news station in the early 1970's. She was fighting depression caused by different circumstances in her life and she ended up committing suicide on live television in 1974. The event is known as one of the most notorious pieces of pop culture and legend has it that Paddy Chayefsky based his celebrated screenplay for "Network" on Christine's suicide.

"Christine" is a film that easily could have been exploitative, focusing on the tragic event itself. And even though we do get to see the moment, director Antonio Campos and star Rebecca Hall are, thankfully more interested in the circumstances that brought Christine to her ultimate decision.

Rebecca Hall is nothing short of miraculous in this film. As with the plot, it would have been very easy for her to go overboard with her performance, as often happens in films that deal with mental illness. Every single note she hits is pitch perfect, balancing Christine's instability with care and grace, making it simultaneously tender and scary but always relatable for someone who is watching and possibly going through the same thing.

It's very important to say that "Christine" doesn't offer comfort and it's going to be OK type of answers, and I'm not just saying this because if Christine's ultimate fate, but because it very clearly shows that not everybody is able to deal with the cards that life has dealt, even though those closest to us often (with the best intentions) tells us that we have to or we'll go insane. Christine's cards were not great: she lived with her hippie mother who loved her in her own way but took advantage of her, she was stuck in a workplace where her gender made it impossible for her to get ahead in her career, she had a benign cyst in her uterus that would make it difficult for her to have children. But for her, the two most painful aspects were that she was approaching 30 and still a virgin and was in love with a colleague (Michael C. Hall) who was always nice to her, but when she decides to act on her feelings it doesn't go the way she wanted. She seeks help and basically is confirmed that her life is shit.

At the very beginning of the film, she drives her car while listening to John Denver's "Annie's Song," a song about someone who desperately needs to be loved, and it's a song whose presence looms very hard through the movie. Christine is someone who on the surface is very much loved, surrounded by friends who appreciate her and love her, but sometimes that just isn't enough. "Christine" is a warning to everybody who thinks depression is something that is trivial and can be explained. It's a necessary film, one that, as I've said before, has the power to help, draw attention to something often trivialized.

The decision to show the tragic moment should be applauded because Antonio Campos decided not to pull any punches and while I understand some may find the moment gratuitous, it's necessary and in spirit to what we had seen before. To do it any differently would be disrespectful to Christine's memory, her struggle and the struggle millions of people go through every day.

As someone struggling with depression for a while now, I found strange comfort watching "Christine" It made me feel less alone and despite the tragedy of it, hopeful. What else could we want from cinema?