Review: Hannah Is Both Disturbing and Fascinating

Editors Note: this is a repost of an article from Third Coast Review's Chicago International Film Festival coverage

Hannah Charlotte Rampling Image courtesy of Gene Siskel Film Center

The second feature from Italian-born director/co-writer Andrea Pallaoro (Medeas) is the French-language Hannah, an often oppressively sad and overpoweringly bleak tale of an elderly woman (the great Charlotte Rampling, doing some of the best work between this film and 2015’s 45 Years) whose husband (André Wilms) is put in jail (for a crime that is never named, but even what is hinted at seems terrible), leaving her alone to live with the guilt and loss of a life that once was. We can actually watch Hannah move through her day, attempting to recapture what existed before—swimming at her gym, doing part-time work cleaning homes, taking part in acting classes, even visiting her grown son and his family, who want nothing to do with her.

Some aspects of her life don’t change at all, and that almost further underscores the things that have changed. She can’t look anyone in the eyes any longer, except to envy the freedom and lack of shame others display when she feels she cannot. She goes to visit her husband in jail, but they have little to talk about, especially when she discovers damning evidence of his guilt while cleaning out his desk at home.

Hannah is a tough watch, but it’s a fascinating experience to see this person slip slowly from her own life, sometimes because people shut her out, other times because she’s afraid to test the waters and see how they react to her presence. One of my favorite films this year at the festival, and also one of the most psychologically disturbing.

The film opens today for a weeklong run at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WceKczD2rbs  
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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.