“If It Bleeds, It Leads” is the darkly prophetic slogan at the centre of this drama, about real life TV reporter Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall) whose work pressures and mental health issues led her to commit suicide on camera in 1974.
Even a cursory search for Chubbuck’s name makes for unpleasant reading, the stuff of Most Shocking clickbait lists. However, this is the story of the person, not the headlines. Centered entirely around the lead, we see a woman desperately trying to balance her dreams with the disappointing reality that surrounds her. Director Antonio Campos isn’t interested in a downfall, but rather takes a restrained look at Chubbock’s flaws as well as her desire to overcome them.
Hall’s career has often seen her be swallowed up in ensembles; she wasn’t even on the poster for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, despite being the lead, while she was wasted in both Iron Man 3 and Transcendence. Here, she’s given a platform to show just how good she is. Awkward, confrontational and vulnerable all at once, you can’t take your eyes off her. Indeed, one of the film’s flaws is that she has no one to play off, apart from her clashes with her station manager, played by Tracy Letts.
While too straight forward at times, this is a compassionate portrait that’s far more nuanced than the headlines surrounding the story would suggest.