For much of the wispy drama “Anne at 13,000 Ft,” you wait for it to expand on its title and maybe even coalesce into something more than its nebulous parts. The title character is one of those difficult women that the movies just can’t quit and rarely prove as interesting as filmmakers seem to think. Anne obviously has issues — psychological, behavioral, familial — but the movie isn’t big on specifics. It’s a pretty, uninvolving blur.
So is its title character. The story, such as it is, centers on Anne (Deragh Campbell), who works in a day-care center and seems to have recently moved into her own pad. She’s skittish and often unfocused, but, at 27, she’s eager to be in the world even if she isn’t ready for its pressures. There are early signs of trouble, including from a co-worker, an older woman who reasonably reminds Anne that she needs to keep an eye on the young children they care for. Anne later throws a cup at the co-worker, calling her dumb.
It’s an empty paper cup and no biggie — or so the movie would have you believe. The act earns Anne a gentle, comically indulgent lecture from a supervisor (it only makes Anne seem more childlike) and that’s about it; you may feel less patient and sympathetic. The problem isn’t the cup or the insult, but that the writer-director Kazik Radwanski doesn’t do anything with the incident. Instead, it becomes one in a series of floaty if progressively leaden moments — butterfly wings brushing the skin, a wedding veil sailing in the air, a giddy escape to a roof — that alternately suggest flight, freedom and falling.
Things happen, including a parachute jump that kind of explains the title and provides the movie with some ominously airy visuals. Anne’s mother (Lawrene Denkers) indulges her, as does a lover (Matt Johnson), one of several moths drawn to her. These guys all seem just to want to get it on, though that’s too earthy a take for a movie that prettily drifts. This wafting extends to the restless camera, which moves around in agitated fashion, as if to convey Anne’s unsettled mind. Everything else often remains out of focus, underscoring her isolation. Amid the blurred edges, the children look at Anne openly and curiously but without great interest. They’re the truest thing in the movie.
One insurmountable problem with “Anne at 13,000 Ft” is that its protagonist isn’t interesting enough, isn’t deeply felt or substantially drawn enough, to serve as the axis for a movie that hovers around mental illness and tries to substitute free-floating metaphors for a story. There’s nothing wrong with messiness and mistiness and camerawork so insistently agitated that it seems to be addicted to amphetamines. But you need something to keep you engaged, like a persuasive lead performance. Campbell tries hard to express Anne’s inner life — she erupts into giggles, lets her face drain, casts her gaze downward — but these pieces also never cohere.
Anne at 13,000 Ft
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes. In theaters.
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