Movie Review: Unbalanced young woman skydives into “Anne at 13,000 ft”

Spare, intense and deeply unnerving, “Anne at 13,000 ft” an indie drama that manages to keep the viewer on tenterhooks by concentrating on the bare essentials — an unbalanced young woman who is never more than one bad day from having a complete breakdown.

Toronto filmmaker Kazik Radwanski (“Tower”) keeps his camera hand-held and tight on his leading lady. And Deragh Campbell, in that title role, is relentlessly unsettling, an actress who lets us see a disconnection that borders on madness behind Anne’s eyes.

Twentysomething Anne works in a Toronto day care, and picks up a little extra cash on the side babysitting for the parents of some of the kids there. She’s popular with the children, probably because she’s childlike herself.

She laughs, self-consciously, is unfiltered and inappropriate at times. She’s prone to being inconsiderate or downright rude, only to brush it off as her own personal “joke.”

She has a hard time following instructions and taking orders. And in a licensed Canadian day care, that can be a problem.

We meet her as she skydives, in tandem with an experienced professional. Yes, she Tom Cruises it — doing the stunt herself. She seems to black out in ecstasy, losing herself in the moment

Because that’s where Anne lives. But could anyone live with her, deal with her manic mood swings, her refusal to stop doing something when someone else corrects her, her constant laughter, even when she’s letting us see a flash of temper?

Anne is a truly cringe-worthy heroine, and not the fun “Office” type. Radwanski has made such folks something of a specialty.

We fear Anne, and we fear for her as she meets a possibly-nice/possibly predatory guy (Matt Johnson) at a wedding and cannot stop drinking any more than she can stop with her borderline-upsetting bridesmaid’s toast. She reminds us, at every turn, that she’s being left in charge of people’s children, and that’s just plain alarming.

Campbell (“Project Ithaca,” “Possessor”) effortlessly holds down the film’s endless succession of close-ups. She is never over-the-top, even as Anne flirts with outright mania, melting down with her mother (Lawrene Denkers), snapping at sales clerks (“Can you stop following me?”), forever wrong-footing poor Matt.

“You’re a weird little girl, you know that?”

It’s a compact, nearly perfect performance of a character who leaves you exhausted even though we only spend 75 minutes with her.

You bail out of “Anne at 13,000 ft” fretting for her future and wondering if there’s a med she’s off or a treatment she’s refused to undertake. Because eventually, the wincing, worrying and the cringing would wear down anybody stuck in her company.

Rating: unrated, alcohol abuse, profanity

Cast: Deragh Campbell, Matt Johnson, Lawrene Denkers

Credits: Written and directed by Kazik Radwanski. A Cinema Guild release.

Running time: 1:15

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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