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Angel at My Table, An
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by Dr. Isaksson

"A poignant and heart wrenching Biography"
5 stars

From the moment you set your eyes onto Jane Campion's "An Angel at My Table" you are completely swallowed into the film's overwhelming atmosphere. This is the film adaptation of renown New Zealand writer Janet Frame's own autobiographies. Spanning from Janet's magical childhood to her later, more challenging years, "An Angel at My Table" never softens it's brutal truth and never loses it's focus while depicting Janet Frame's amazing rise from a shy farm girl to a prize winning author.

From the outset of 1990's An Angel At My Table, we are led into the life of Janet Frame, visiting her as a child and seeing the goings on of her large but close knit family. We watch as the young, frizzy haired Janet discovers a life-long love for literature as steps awkwardly through the daily hardships of poverty and family troubles. These early scenes are filmed with such a childish honesty that you almost feel as if you are watching a documentary and not an acted film. As she reaches her teenage years, Janet Frame comes to a crossroad. She must become a teacher to make a living and in doing so, finds trouble in discarding her dreams of being a writer. (That dream being the strongest passion in her life.) As she reaches early adulthood, Janet's (played by the brilliant Kerry Fox) unhappiness and crippling shyness leads her down a path that noone could expect. So eager to trust others, Janet Frame stumbles into a dark realm of misery and hardship almost too horrific to describe. However, her years of suffering and uncertainy are just the beginning of the amazing journey she is set to make. And as that new course of life begins you realize that An Angel At My Table isn't just going to show you a life incomplete, but a life of the most unbelievable occurrences and of great joy and great accomplishment.

The most amazing aspect about An Angel At My Table is the uncompromising and heartfelt lead performance by Kerry Fox. When she is on the screen, she gives you Janet Frame, body, mind, heart and soul. I have rarely seen such impeccable acting in my life and feel all the more richer that I was given the chance to see Kerry Fox in all her glory. She is nothing short of a revelation. The other young women who portray Janet are almost equally great. Through her childhood years, Janet is played by a chubby little wonder named (Alexia Keough). Her face is charmingly captured by Jane Campion in an honest and no frills light that sets the film's truthful and strong beginning. As a teen Janet, the quality of acting continues as (Karen Fergusson) assumes the role. Amazingly, the actresses are so convincing and look so much alike that you can easily believe you are watching the same person.

As far as the look and feel of An Angel At My Table goes, Jane Campion's direction can be just as harsh and unbending as it is soft and beautifully stunning. She has an amazing knack for capturing the most unflinching scenes of human emotion and then can stun you with her jaw dropping shots of the glorious New Zealand landscapes. You KNOW full well that Campion truly loves her work and the subject she has taken the task to portray. The film is just brimming with love. The music score for the film by Don McGlashan is another absolutely gorgeous standout. Full of moody dark atmosphere as well as shining joy, McGlashan's music plays in your ear long after the film has ended. Wonderful!

For me to say that Kerry Fox and Jane Campion deserved Best Actress and Best Director Oscars for this film would be an understatement. They are FAR above the plastic praise Hollywood has to offer. Their work is a testament that truly great films can (and do) come in small, foreign packages.

It is almost impossible to go into elaborate details concerning An Angel At My Table becuase it is simply an all embracing look at a human's incredible life. Most surprising, in all this, as a viewer, you never lose sight of the film's ultimate aim. That even in the darkest hour, no matter what is stacked against you, one of the most glorious of all powers blessed inside the human frame is the unstoppable, unbreakable, spirit.

"An Angel At My Table" is simply a masterpiece. Showcasing one woman's journey through days of childish joy, fragile teenage uncertainty, harsh grown up reality, and ultimately the neverending quest for self-fulfillment. ***** 5 Stars

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5739&reviewer=296
originally posted: 02/12/02 02:27:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/25/20 Anne something was missing and not quite sure what it is perhaps would have benefited from more 3 stars
10/16/06 Smiley Excellent 5 stars
7/03/06 Jack Sommersby Never really gets into the heart and sould of lead character. Clinically cold film. 2 stars
4/29/06 nina e hackett A film that will be remembered for having met and "lived" with this extraordinary woman . 5 stars
7/18/05 Lisa Hopgood good to study for english 3 stars
11/14/04 Ciaran Cooper this is easily the most crap film that I have ever seen, avoid at ALL costs 1 stars
9/14/04 shirley mcclure masterpeice 5 stars
8/24/04 jade a moving film which i have never forgotten. it made a real impact and still does. 5 stars
6/04/04 MyGreenBed Quite possibly the greatest "odd child" film ever made (forget Welcome to the Dollhouse). 5 stars
2/16/03 Oscar Alvarez Brilliant character study 4 stars
12/29/02 Tam Dark and moving with a compelling performance from Fox. Deserved greater accolades. 4 stars
9/27/02 Moose Mice required viewing for any on the fringe of society 5 stars
2/25/02 ownerofdajoint wherestheangelherlifewasendlesstormentcallitdevilupmyass! 4 stars
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  20-Sep-1990 (R)



Directed by
  Jane Campion

Written by
  Laura Jones

  Kerry Fox
  Alexia Keogh
  Karen Fergusson
  Iris Churn
  Jessie Mune
  Kevin J. Wilson

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