Typist Artist Pirate King, 2022.
Directed by Carol Morley.
Starring Monica Dolan, Kelly Macdonald, Gina McKee.
The growing friendship between two women as they hit the road in an electric car looking for endings and reconciliation.
Carol Morley is a distinctive voice in British cinema, behind a number of acclaimed features and documentary films including Dreams of a Life and Out of Blue. Morley’s latest Typist Artist Pirate King is a fictionalised portrait of the little-known avant-garde schizophrenic artist Audrey Amiss, framed as a road trip between Amiss (Monica Dolan) and her social worker Sandra played by Kelly Macdonald.
Amiss lived from 1933-2013 and while she did exhibit her work, didn’t receive much recognition in her lifetime and this film may go some way to reframing the conversation around her work and life. The bulk of the film sees the pair’s journey from Audrey’s London home to an exhibition of her work in her native Sunderland. If the premise sounds bizarre, Morley’s name will attract interest and it’s unorthodox approach to sensitive subject matter.
The film relies heavily on its two lead performances to succeed, especially Dolan who captures Audrey’s fragility and determination and creative impulses. Whether she is having a tantrum or imagining a better life Dolan imbues Amiss with a sense of humanity and constant energy. Macdonald meanwhile captures Sandras angst and frustration at Audrey’s behaviour, gradually warming to her mannerisms and forming a close bond, the real core of the film and their relationship is palpable.
Gina McKee appears late in the piece as Sandra’s sister Dorothy, mentioned frequently but off screen until the film’s final act, the breakdown of their relationship clearly having an impact on both. McKee makes the most of her limited screen time to prove a standout and important figure in the context of the film.
This could quite easily have been a more by the numbers take on Audrey’s life and the decision to cover a road trip gives it extra depth and added humour throughout the course of their journey be-it attending a Yoga class, getting stuck in the bathroom or car trouble (Sandra’s car being bright yellow). There is a constant warmth on display and a sense of fun in spite of the delicate nature of Amiss’ life.
Typist Artist Pirate King is a funny, touching, nuanced portrait of an undersung artist with stellar performances from Monica Dolan and Kelly Macdonald sharing superb chemistry and capturing the required beats both dramatic and comedic to make the film work. Morley’s screenplay gets us inside Audrey’s head with a reflective and kind hearted portrait of her life and work. Focusing on a particular point in life and some of her key relationships helps this stand apart from other films of its type as does its unorthodox imagery and light humorous touches peppered throughout.
Typist Artist Pirate King further cements Carol Morley as one of Britain’s premier filmmakers, elevating the subject matter and hopefully will help give Audrey Amiss greater public recognition.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★