Diane ★ 

Films like Diane are rare, beautiful conundrums—so self-assured and well-crafted, they seem capable of withstanding any interrogation, and yet so delicate and naturalistic, their magic might slip away at any moment. Mary Kay Place brings this duality to her role as the titular Diane, an aging woman with the devil on her back, in the narrative feature debut from documentarian Kent Jones (writer/director of the spectacular Hitchcock/Truffaut). Diane lives alone in a small community in western Massachusetts, ferrying herself over snow-covered hills to volunteer at the soup kitchen, visit dying relatives and check in on her drug-addicted son, Brian (Jake Lacy), who is on the verge of relapsing once more. Although Place wears a mask of exhaustion and world-weariness through it all, Diane doesn’t seem to have an inner self—her life is entirely devoted to others. But this saint-like behavior is at odds with Diane’s cutting humor and obvious anger and, in time, the reason for her constant state of atonement is revealed. The clear-cut narrative of the film’s first half blooms into something much more oblique, at times even surreal, diving into its lead’s psyche and exploring the boundaries between who we are, who we were and who we will become. Death looms around every corner in Diane, but Jones is most interested in the communities and unshakable connections we build. The film’s greatest scenes plainly depict the daily small talk, bickering and shared secrets between the women who surround Diane. Reach beneath its uncomplicated surface, and you’ll find a thing of wonder. Watch it at Kendall Square and in the suburbs.

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