Monica Dolan’s honest portrayal of artist Audrey Amiss locks you into Typist Artist Pirate King. This fictional road trip is full of sympathy for its lead, with writer-director Carol Morley unafraid to give us a rye smile along the way.
The growing friendship between a schizophrenic artist and her carer has the duo taking an unexpected car journey, pushing both to their emotional limits.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better pair of hands to direct a film about someone suffering from schizophrenia than Carol Morley. She has a deft and careful touch to her films that you easily gravitate towards, with Typist Artist Pirate King being just another to add to her catalogue of films. Handling a character like Audrey is dangerous for a writer when their movie features a fictional moment in a real person’s life. You have to remain respectful but also allow the audience to feel towards the character, to like and ultimately, in Amiss’s case, greatly sympathise with her. Morley could easily take her film down the straight drama route, but this is a journey where a smile can be shared while striking us with starkly real moments. It takes a lot of skill from Morley to conjure what she does, and luckily she has cast her film to perfection.
The two lead performances carry Typist Artist Pirate King, both (Audrey) Monica Dolan and (Sandra) Kelly MacDonald, bringing all their experience to the film and giving us characters to latch onto. Dolan is a ball of fragile energy, misinterpreting most situations and bringing vibrancy to a complicated woman that breaks your heart, even if she natters on endlessly. Macdonald, on the other hand, does what she has always done best, sympathise. She is the audience, wanting to help Amiss as best she can, to listen and understand, yet living in the knowledge that all she can really do is make sure less damage is done to her patient.
Front and centre in the film, however, is a scathing attack on the treatment of people who do have mental illness in our society. Mental healthcare has taken a beating and is the oft-forgotten area in healthcare. People in positions that should have ample empathy for people like Amiss seem to have next to none here. They are the forgotten souls of the world, left to cope on the outskirts as long as they do not trouble the rest of us too much, leaving people like Sandra to pick up whatever pieces are left.
The compassion should here in Typist Artist Pirate King radiates through the screen; Morley has indeed taken great care when it comes to writing her film, using the bountiful notes and artwork left behind by Amiss to get the best possible picture of the artist as we can get. By keeping the journey moving, the film never has too much time to stagnate, though Macdonald’s character is perhaps not utilised to her fullest extent. Overall this is an all-round movie that will have you scratching for more regarding Audrey Amiss, and really that is never a bad thing.
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