Anne at 13,000 Feet gives us a character poised between Earth and sky

Canadian actor Deragh Campbell draws viewers into her orbit

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People who say bats are the only mammals capable of true flight are forgetting – well, people. Humans have been fascinated by flying as far back as history can record, and it’s indicative of our desire to do it that it was just 57 years between the first powered flight by the Wright brothers and the first human to boldly go where no bat had gone before; into space.

Anne (Canada’s Deragh Campbell) catches the bug when she goes skydiving as part of a bachelorette party for her friend and coworker Sarah (Dorothea Pass). The scene is the first we see of her in Anne at 13,000 Feet, but writer/director Kazik Radwanski intercuts images of her adventure with more prosaic footage of her working at a Toronto daycare.

Anne might not be cut out for that job. Though she’s clearly amazing with kids, she’s also poised on the dangerous edge between childlike and childish. During a cringe-worthy, confessional speech at Sarah’s wedding, she describes how one of her charges fainted after she left him in his snowsuit for too long, and how Sarah came to the rescue.


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Anne is poised on the dangerous edge between childlike and childish

Radwanski’s simple, short (74-minute) story follows Anne – often in extreme, dizzying handheld close-up – as she tries to navigate her life. This includes fractious relationships with her mother and with others at work, and a creaky relationship with wedding guest Matt (Toronto actor and filmmaker Matt Johnson), understandably weirded out when she brings him home to meet her family and all but announces they’ll be getting married soon.

Anne at 13,000 Feet is one of three films vying for the $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film prize, to be awarded next month by the Toronto Film Critics Association. The others – Louise Archambault’s And the Birds Rained Down, and White Lie from co-directors Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas – are on Crave and also VOD. They are three very different stories, but if there is a common thread it is the way they elicit sympathy for imperfect, perfectly drawn characters.

Anne is clearly troubled, but Radwanski wisely avoids making any pat diagnoses, even at second-hand, and so I shall follow his lead and do the same. But led by Campbell’s expressive features, viewers will be drawn into Anne’s orbit, anxious to divine what drives her to behave in such destructive ways, and what is weighing her down.

Childcare sometimes proves too much for her to handle, and the only moments of true peace she seems to find are when she is in the belly of a small airplane, suspended between ground and sky. Alas, even a bat will tell you that you can’t stay up forever.

Anne at 13,000 Feet is available Feb. 19 through digital TIFF Bell Lightbox at

4 stars out of 5

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