Not even halfway into Anne at 13,000 Ft, one exasperated character exclaims to the protagonist, “What is wrong with you?”
It’s a fair question — and a surprising one. Anne (Deragh Campbell, also one of the movie’s writers) is aggravating and lovely and impossible and funny and annoying, often all in the same moment. The film’s plot is easy (though not basic): Anne, who works at a daycare center and has a special knack for enthralling the kids and irritating her co-workers, goes tandem skydiving for a friend’s bachelorette party. For the first time in her life, she feels … normal? Like herself? Free? It’s hard to say. After that, she goes to work, goes on an awkward date, goes to her friend’s wedding, and studies so she can skydive solo. Director and writer Kazik Radwanski follows all of this intimately —sometimes claustrophobically — and we come along for the ride.
Anne is a character we don’t see often in film, and Radwanski gives us the space to react to her as we do. We don’t know if she’s neurodivergent, or dealing with addiction or mental illness, or just a mess; all are possibilities that crossed my mind, and other viewers will probably have others. Most importantly, we’re given permission to not like Anne. “Likeability” is so often the death knell for female characters; it’s the cinematic equivalent of “you’d be so much prettier if you smiled.” To have a female character who simply is and doesn’t seek, require, or offer redemption to herself or others is rare and refreshing, and Campbell never mugs for either the camera or for other characters, which explains why her interactions with the daycare’s children (most of which were improvised) are so good. She treats their ramblings, ideas, and interactions with more respect than she does anyone else’s — another example of why she’s great with kids, but why you might not want her to be on your team at work. It’s a risk to just let the character be, and one that pays off.
Anne’s ambiguity is why the film, which appears so simple, is also so compelling. We’re never quite sure what she’s going to do, and everything seems a possibility. It makes for a breathless, intense, fast experience (“Anne” is only just over an hour long) where there isn’t a wasted or extraneous frame. Campbell’s work has to be celebrated; I was reminded of Brie Larson in Short Term 12 in that Anne is a film where you know you’re watching someone special and hope that her career lives up to her talent and potential.
Radwanski invites his audience into Anne’s space, but doesn’t make it comfortable for us, and that’s what makes Anne ring true. She is wholly herself, and our opinions aren’t asked for. Like Anne or not, spending time with her is a compelling, thrilling experience.