“Diane”: Character Study of a Human “Saint”

Diane’s life seems entirely devoted to the needs of others, suggesting that she’s either a saint or atoning for some perceived transgression. David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter, about new film Diane

In the new indie film Diane the lead character is played by Mary Kay Place, whose performance has been widely praised. As described by Brian Tallerico, rogerebert.com, Diane is an older widow “who spends most of her waking hours in service of other people.”

Some, in fact, would call her a “saint.” In the realm of codependency lore, the saints are the too-good-to-be-true helpers and enablers—who may actually be running or hiding from their own problems.

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, on Diane’s life as depicted:

She spends a lot of time in the hospital visiting a sick friend and volunteers at a soup kitchen. Her biggest burden is her grown son (a wonderfully horrifying Jake Lacy), who is a drug addict, living in filth with his drug addict girlfriend. She wants to help him, but when she tries, he screams at her and calls her the c-word.

We might consider Diane a female Job, but the movie makes clear that she has a past. We also see that, despite her careful and considerate deportment, this is a woman with an edge. She’s no pushover.

It’s actually women of all types who are in the forefront in Diane’s world. The supporting cast includes Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, and Glynnis O’Connor, to name a few. Ella Taylor, NPR:

…[Director] Kent Jones (Hitchock/Truffaut) comes in praise of older women, the crankier the better. The troubled New England woman at the center of his drama seems at first to embody a familiar type: the fussy old enabler without a life of her own. But Jones proves a loving, if clear-eyed world-builder who invites us into the orbit of a woman muddling through a complicated life, rather than peddling a tactfully edited ‘senior’ identity.

Regarding the evolving story, David Edelstein, Vulture:

Diane is busy even in private, making to-do lists and then turning to a journal as her friends die one by one. Gradually, we learn that she has sinned in her own eyes but also that the sin was her truest moment of freedom from the heaviness of her life. What she did comes back to her in dreams that are spooky, from another world. Her regrets and her longings merge.

Watch the trailer below, then look for it at your local arthouse theater. If not there, it’s already available on several streaming platforms, such as Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.

Critics are generally liking not only the performances but also the story and script. And while some say Diane the film is a downer, others say surprisingly not:

Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times: “Emotions play across faces weathered by age and bonded by long experience, and the wonder is that a story this threaded with sickness and decline is neither tedious nor depressing.”

Owen Gleiberman, Variety: “The story takes its time, but will flip ahead to shock us with the matter-of-fact news of a character’s death. In ‘Diane,’ death happens and life goes on, though maybe with a heightened chill.”

David Ehrlich, IndieWire: “…a non-judgmental story about trying to reconcile meaning with meaningless before the well runs dry and it rains again.”

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