Typist Artist Pirate King is a semi-biographical picture that celebrates the mind and its complexity, as well as the freedom of a woman healing her inner child. It is a redemptive narrative on mental illness and a love letter to psychiatric nurses.
Alongside writer and director, Carol Morley, comes an all-female main cast and production team, making this a prime example of a movie made by women, for women.
Although it addresses the delicate subject of mental illness, Morley depicts the topic through a comedic lens, stating: “Stories about mental illness are always represented in a depressing and grim way, and though Audrey [our main character] had many demons, she was also incredibly comedic and made me laugh a lot”.
Monica Dolan gives the performance of a lifetime in her first starring role as Audrey Amiss, a neglected artist in her sixties whose career never took off. She lives alone in her disorganised and chaotic London flat, fitting the stereotype of the misunderstood painter, with her thick northern accent quickly giving her away as an outsider to the capital, a recurring theme throughout her life.
“The perfect duality of real, heart-breaking moments and unexpectedly comedic ones allows the viewer to laugh through their tears.”
We learn Audrey suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, a condition that has made her life an isolated one, with her nurse’s daily visits being her only human interaction.
Her nurse, Sandra (Kelly Macdonald) is a devoted and extremely patient care worker, who after years of being in the industry has decided to quit her job and change her career.
The two partake in one last journey together, after Audrey begs Sandra to take her and her artwork to an exhibition gallery in her hometown, fearing this might be her last chance to show the World her talent.
Tormented by her demons and the thought of her impending death, Audrey’s past unravels before the audience’s eyes as their road trip ensues: her outbursts of joy and anger are linked to her mind confusing strangers along the road for people of her past. “It was an opportunity for us to explain her past without recurring to flashbacks”, said director, Morley.
“Typist Artist Pirate King successfully encaptures the hardship of a life with mental illness but is equally balanced by the humanity and charisma of Audrey.”
The wonderfully-portrayed relationship between the two women will see them facing unimaginable obstacles in their two-day journey, with Sandra being the epitome of a caring supporter and one who, although unaware of the cause, is understanding of Audrey’s pain and patient enough to stick by her through her roughest moments.
The picture successfully encaptures the hardship of a life with mental illness but is equally balanced by the humanity and charisma of Audrey, taking the audience on an emotional rollercoaster that will make it fall in love with the character. The perfect duality of real, heart-breaking moments and unexpectedly comedic ones allows the viewer to laugh through their tears.
Throughout this touching journey, the audience is shown a variety of Audrey’s art pieces, some being the impressionist works that got her into the Royal Academy, some being infantile-looking scribbles and, her last, being a collection of wrappers of all the things she ate, glued to journals. A total of 50,000 art pieces have so been found so far in Audrey’s archives, she is described by the director as “a true artist who had to do something every day to let out her emotions”.
Typist Artist Pirate King is a very delicate, yet ultimately real, showcase of paranoia, friendship, failure and womanhood.
Screened as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2023. Brig’s coverage of the festival can be found here.
Featured Image Credit: Camp Films
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