AFI Fest 2017: Hannah, by Scott Nye
The past fifteen years or so of art house cinema has not exactly been short on films with little plot, the rely on everyday actions to fill the running time and some underlying notion of conflict. This model, like any other, has yielded its share of masterpieces and dreck. Andrea Pallaoro’s sophomore feature Hannah has a leg up on its peers by casting Charlotte Rampling, but quickly goes to show that it takes a whole lot more than the right actor to hold its center.
Hannah (Rampling) is a part-time actress, part-time nanny whose husband has been carted off to prison for what we gather to be some kind of child pornography or child sex activity. It’s often used as a positive that a film “doesn’t spell it all out for you”, but there’s too much in Hannah that must be gathered for its story to fully land in its 96-minute running time. Took me the bulk of that to even deduce the “nanny” part; she just kept hanging out with this kid in a much nicer house than where she lived.
Slowly, it starts to accumulate – you see Hannah’s been cut off from her children and grandchildren since her husband’s conviction, you see that she’s standing by him somewhat tepidly, and you see how lonely she must be. But even that must be inferred. Pallaoro takes an ill-advised approach by shooting around Rampling as often as he approaches her directly. Crucial scenes will play with her face out of view. Moreover, to the surprise of no one who’s seen a film about an actor before, the themes of the play she’s working start to bleed in with her actual life! So that some scenes start and you think they’re about her life falling apart, it’s actually in the play!
These sort of attention-grabbing tricks are fine when the screenplay is more fleshed out or you have a longer running time in which to build everything else. Hannah just feels cheap, increasingly so as it boils down at about the halfway mark to inevitably requiring one of two conclusions, neither of which seems (nor ultimately proves to be) terribly illuminating. Just another way to put this poor old woman through the wringer.