Donald Trump has very recently just stepped into power as the new President of the United States of America (to much dismay it should be noted) so the arrival of Pablo Larrain's latest film, the mesmerising biopic of the inspiring First Lady Kennedy, Jackie, feels rather timely and relevant.

Based on true events, the film follows our titular lady - the First Lady of the United States even - Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman), in the days following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Told through Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup)'s Life magazine interview with the widow, we find out just she dealt with the grief of this tragedy, consoled their two young children, bore the weight of defining her husband's legacy on her shoulders, and tried to organise his funeral (a task which was not easy, having been delayed on several occasions), in the harsh time that followed the assassination.

With an impressive slew of strong foreign, Political thrillers under his belt, Jackie marks director Pablo Larrain's first venture into a Hollywood, English-language film. And the result could not have been better. This is about as intimate and personal a story as they come, and Larrain tells it with such elegance and finesse - quietly recounting this tragic event and the even harsher time that our titular Lady had to deal with. Larrain always respects the material and, for such a personal space, always respects the characters too. He is a master behind the camera and directs this film so gently yet masterfully - with a slow, but necessary, pacing; a remarkable attention to detail and subtlety and long, beautiful handheld takes. Jackie excels in its subtlety; it's stirring and gripping, yet oddly often subdued (much like how First Lady Kennedy appears to look throughout the film - subdued, and calm). The film works superbly as a period piece as much as it does a biopic, capturing the 60's so perfectly; this is a gorgeous film, with beautiful, swirling cinematography and luscious colours and costume and, again, a remarkable attention to detail.
At the heart of Jackie, however, is our eponymous protagonist. Natalie Portman gives a performance for the ages as our First Lady here; she never has a moment which screams "look at me, I'm a good actor". Rather, this is a very subtle and distanced performance - in the best way possible. Similarly to another Awards-calibre performance in another Awards-calibre film, Casey Affleck in Manchester By The Sea, this is a performance that strives in just how subdued and quiet it is. Despite being very held back, you can feel Jacqueline's ferocity and iron spirit in her mere presence. This is an emotionally driven film and Portman gives an emotionally charged performance, but it's all in the nuances - her eyes, her voice, her smile. There's a great supporting cast too, from a superb Crudup (who plays off of Portman brilliantly) to Richard E. Grant, Greta Gerwig, and an outstanding John Hurt in one of the late actor's very final on-screen roles that we can cherish. It's a cast on form, but it is easily, and most undoubtedly Natalie Portman that steals the show - an unstoppable tour-de-force.

Jackie isn't the most audacious, or most action-packed, or most dazzling of the films currently out. However, what it is, though, is an utterly enthralling and terrifically fascinating biopic about such an equally interesting figure. This is a gorgeously shot, masterfully acted piece of work that is quiet and subtle, yet in equal parts thrilling and profound; a brilliant, nuanced and wonderful film. Oh, and the score from Mica Levi is just something else. It's beautifully old-school and classical, yet a little strange too, with a sense of urgency to it, and it could not be a more perfect fit for this film. Jackie's only flaw is perhaps that, despite deliberately slow pacing, the film can drag from time to time. However, it doesn't take away from how sensational this is. Like our titular First Lady, Jackie is a little bit tough, unpredictable, and wholly amazing.

VERDICT:
Accomplished, devastating and brilliantly nuanced, Jackie is a film that is superbly affecting, sensational and utterly compelling, with a killer performance from a magnetic Portman.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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