Andrea Pallaoro’s Hannah is all show and no tell, and that has both benefits and drawbacks. In terms of the latter, it makes it harder for us to really connect with the true predicament of Charlotte Rampling’s character, especially since we don’t know the full extent of her imprisoned husband’s crimes. Pallaoro does, in his indirect way, heavily imply what the crimes are, but the victims are shut out of the conversation (barring one small scene), and Hannah’s life before her husband’s prosecution is hardly ever alluded to. No, it’s all about the aftermath, and that’s the area where the film excels. By following Hannah around on her daily activities, which include working as a housekeeper, meeting with her theatre troupe, and swimming at the local recreation centre, we gradually come to witness the sheer blackness of her misery, as well as the burdens she carries by being associated with a known criminal. Not only is there some level of ostracism, but virtually nothing she does anymore gives her much happiness. She exists in a perpetual twilight zone, mechanically moving from place to place with a permanent sadness in her eyes, haunted by the mysterious sins of her spouse and, perhaps, her own complicity. In choosing to silently observe Hannah rather than judge her outright, Pallaoro makes us wonder whether her depression will finally manifest itself in something extreme—and whether anyone in her small circle will care.
Naturally, a film as sparse as this only works as well as the performance leading it, and I’m glad to say Rampling remains in fine form. There are some noticeable similarities with her Oscar-nominated performance in 45 Years, but this one is certainly much more desolate in tenor. Rampling looks like she’s on the brink of collapse in virtually every scene, straining with all her might to remain composed. It feels like a rather accurate depiction of depression’s emaciating blackness, and of course, Rampling’s expressive face helps sell it all the more. When she finally breaks (and she does), the result is the most terror-inducing expression of feral agony put to screen I’ve seen this year, and it’s impossible not to feel even a pang of sympathy for this suffering shell of a woman. Unfortunately, this film is far too small and obscure to even allow for Rampling to receive more awards consideration beyond the Volpi Cup she won last year, but she mightily deserves it for this bracing and impactful showing.