Glasgow Film Festival: Typist Artist Pirate King (2023)

Director: Carol Morley

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Starring: Monica Dolan, Kelly Macdonald, Gina McKee, Christine Bottomley, Kieran Bew

Taking inspiration from the life of Audrey Amiss, writer/director Carol Morley crafts a fictionalized portrait of the late artist whose works were discovered after her passing. The film opens with Amiss' paintings intercut with scenes of children happily running on the beach, before the cheerful instances cut to the present-day sight of Audrey (Monica Dolan). Describing herself as an "avante garde and aspiring artist", the previous typist believes she missed the chance for her art to be recognized. Upon seeing an open call for exhibitions, Audrey sees this as her last chance and asks to be driven to Sunderland by her mental health carer, Sandra (Kelly MacDonald).

Dolan delivers exemplary work conveying Audrey's passion and pain, as she grabs onto this opportunity to make her art known despite the journey involving painful trips down memory lane. This includes the mistreatment of her mental health by those without any understanding, delivered in a sobering manner anchored by Dolan's powerful portrayal.

Acting opposite her is a terrific Kelly MacDonald, capturing the inner hurt of this character who feels uncomfortable in her own skin. That's quickly forgotten whenever somebody insults Audrey's mental health, as Sandra is first to defend her. What unfolds is a fantastic two-hander between deft performers, capturing this pair looking out for each other as their touching bond grows.

What Morley wonderfully does is get into Audrey's headspace, depicting fantastical elements with such vivid imagination that some may mistake for storytelling eccentricities. This blurring of reality and imagination is further highlighted by how Audrey mistakes random people for faces from her past, addressing them in relation to her grief carried from previously experienced trauma.

These directorial flourishes aid this equally heartbreaking and heartwarming road-trip, driven by a lovely friendship on a journey through past memories. Central to this story is a lovely sentiment about how art makes life worth living, something which deserves repeating in a country that cuts funding for the arts. Most importantly, the sentiment exceptionally gets to the heart of Audrey and becomes a magnificent way to honour the woman who once wrote her occupation as 'typist artist pirate king'.

Typist Artist Pirate King made its UK Premiere at Glasgow Film Festival