With an admirable performance by Rebecca Hall, Christine handles sensitive, tragic subject matter in a thankfully non-exploitive way.
Although the real-life, on-air suicide of newscaster Christine Chubbuck occurred in 1974, the death still feels haunting in 2016—especially when today’s shootings can be watched on the internet almost immediately after they happen.
The film takes on all of the moving parts in Christine’s (Rebecca Hall) life leading up to what is still considered one of the most shocking and disturbing events in television history. It weaves through various interactions with her mother (J. Smith-Cameron), her boss (Tracy Letts), her love interest, George (Michael C. Hall), and Jean (Maria Dizzia), who seems to be one of her only friends at the station. We see these other people not necessarily as influencing Christine’s suffering, but more so as reflections that help us view her own personal, internal struggle with depression, growing older, failing at finding love, and all of the other hardships that Christine was bearing the burdens of.
Hall does a masterful job portraying a real-life character who was described as brusque, self-deprecating, and difficult to deal with for those reasons. Yet the audience can appreciate her creativity and charitableness, endure her pain when it’s assumed she won’t be able to have children, and even relate to her companionship with her mother, despite their occasional differences. There’s an excitement and electricity when she tells her mom she finally has a date with George and tension and embarrassment for her when she shows up at the station executive’s house late at night, pleading for the opportunity to be promoted. All of these interactions are led by Hall’s subtle, quiet shifts in mood, which seem to mirror the mentality that Chubbuck must have had in the same situations.
My fear coming into Christine was whether or not it was respectful to use a fictional feature film to dramatize a story that already had so much real-life baggage—baggage that left a very real mark on Chubbuck’s family and her peers at work for the rest of their lives. Drama films like this one can very easily verge on exaggerating and exploiting a story that could very well be left alone. But I can say with confidence that seeing Chubbuck’s death re-enacted through film was anything but. It leaves a lasting impression and a resonating feeling of sadness that a woman with ample amounts of talent ended her life much too soon, and it also makes me wonder what could have been done to prevent the horrifying act, if there was anything that could have prevented it at all. | Kristen Weber