When Deanne Foley set out to adapt Joan Clark’s An Audience of Chairs she made a couple of smart decisions; to keep her direction very simple and to cast Carolina Bartczak as her lead, Maura. The story of a woman battling mental illness and the resulting loss of custody of both her children takes the film through some well-trodden ground – you certainly aren’t surprised as to how the plot plays out. However, by keeping the direction and tone of the film very straightforward it allows Bartczak the room to really light up the screen and drive the film forwards. It’s a joy to watch her work in this role, lending Maura such genuine emotional complexity and depth is no small feat, and she appears as an actor very much in control of her craft.
Without its central performance the film would be hard to particularly recommend, it brings nothing new to our understanding of mental illness and you cannot help but feel you’ve seen all its scenes before. It would most likely be a three-star film, a competently made if slightly uninspired adaptation. However, the emotional impact of Bartczak’s work sneaks up on you as an audience member. I’m not sure quite at what point she got under my skin but her naturalism and non-showy commitment to the role elevate the film, lifting this above the sum of its parts. The great joy here is watching Maura’s battle with her disease, we feel the successes and the following losses keenly and you cannot help but will her on, even whilst you are painfully aware of the pain she is causing those around her. If the outline of the film interests you then see it for Bartczak.
An Audience of Chairs is now available on Digital and On Demand.