A young actress discovers art’s power.
Remember the name Helena Howard, said Richard Brody in NewYorker.com. With her screen debut, the young actress has delivered “one of the most accomplished teen performances ever,” and though the experimental nature of Josephine Decker’s film may limit its audience, it is also “an ecstatic, anguished, fiercely empathetic masterwork.” Howard plays the title character, an acting prodigy with a history of mental illness who gets caught in an emotional tug-of-war between her mother (Miranda July) and an intense stage director named Evangeline who pushes her star pupil to use her troubles at home as fodder for theatrical improvisations. “You will be awed and repelled by Evangeline’s increasing callousness,” said Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times. Soon, though, Madeline recognizes the power she wields in her mentor’s world, and as tensions rise, the movie blurs the lines between performance and reality, reason and insanity. Watching the story unfold is “stimulating, maddening, and finally exhilarating.” Credit in part the dreamlike cinematography, which grows increasingly fractured as the movie builds toward its “brain-rattling” conclusion, said David Sims in TheAtlantic.com. “Madeline’s Madeline will jar some viewers,” but that’s part of its charm.