XY CHELSEA – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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It slips by in such a way that you’d be forgiven for not picking up on it, but it’s key to everything that we see in XY Chelsea, the necessarily jagged new documentary portrait of US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. This is it: The soldiers who serve in the military are so, so young, someone notes, and few people realize this. Even now, after all she’s been through and for as long as she’s been in the news, Manning is only 31 years old, and spent a significant chunk of her 20s in prison. Her decision, while she was serving in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, to leak sensitive and classified army documents to Wikileaks, was a decision she made in her very early 20s, when she was still trying to figure out who she was… when in fact she joined the army to help her try to figure out who she was.

I say this not as any sort of excuse for her whistleblowing: it doesn’t need to be excused; she absolutely did the right thing; the world needed to know that American soldiers were committing war crimes and the US government was covering it up. That’s the position of this documentary, too, the feature debut of British filmmaker Tim Travers Hawkins. But Manning’s relative youth is why the film feels, at times, scattered, uncertain, even a little lost: because it is reflecting its subject. Continue reading…

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).