Film Review – A MISTAKE: Director Christine Jeffs’s Slow-Moving Character Study Features Elizabeth Banks in Top Form [Tribeca 2024] SuperNayr

Elizabeth Banks Plus Co A Mistake

A Mistake Review

A Mistake (2024) Film Review from the 23rd Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by Christine Jeffs, written by Carl Shuker and Christine Jeffs and starring Elizabeth Banks, Simon McBurney, Richard Crouchley, Mickey Sumner, Fern Sutherland, Rena Owen, Joel Tobeck, Byron Coll, Emmett Skilton, Ian Hughes, Niwa Whatuira, Ella Hope-Higginson and Sam Wang.  

Elizabeth Banks is in top form in the meandering drama from New Zealand, A Mistake, directed by Christine Jeffs. While the film is slow-moving in its early stages, Banks’s performance is always on-point and helps sharpen the film’s focus, especially in the later scenes within the picture. In the movie, Banks plays a surgeon named Liz Taylor who, alongside a wet-behind-the-ears student colleague, Richard (Richard Crouchley), performs a surgery for a sick woman. When the patient passes away after an unforeseen mishap, Liz is forced to confront the situation as her career is ultimately put in jeopardy. Jeffs creates a complex character in terms of the presentation of Liz but the movie plods on slowly for much of its mid-section until it displays a very compelling series of scenes towards the film’s conclusion.

To start, the surgery scene early on in the picture is frighteningly graphic and realistic. To think of the possibilities of a surgery gone awry is bad enough. However, the movie presents the idea that even though the surgery was technically botched up, the patient probably would have died anyway. Meanwhile, Simon McBurney, as Andrew McGrath, Liz’s supervisor, is eventually depicted as sexist and ignorant. McBurney plays this character extraordinarily well. When McGrath tries to pull the plug on a speech Liz is giving towards the end of the film, the audience will certainly despise McGrath for his insensitivity towards the truth.

Richard Crouchley’s performance gives the story a dramatic edge and is well-nuanced. Crouchley’s character, Richard, suffers tremendously from the results of his actions over the course of the film until a plot development in the movie has the character pay dearly for his mistake in more ways than was expected. Crouchley is both believable and raw in terms of his portrayal of his unstable character and he shares the screen with Banks successfully, especially in a few key scenes sprinkled into the movie’s mid-section.

As Liz’s love interest, Robin, Mickey Sumner shines as well. Robin is hit hard by the events surrounding Liz’s predicament and it’s to Sumner’s credits that the chemistry between she and Banks is subtle, yet plausible. This is however, Banks’s movie from beginning to end. Banks gives Liz a sense of professionalism but Banks gets deep inside this character, creating a three-dimensional woman who ultimately has more sensitivity than one would expect given the earlier scenes in the picture. When she visits the deceased patient’s parents towards the end of the film, there is some tremendous depth displayed by Banks on-screen.

Banks fares best in a speech she gives towards the end of the film. Liz is speaking about a predicament that has occurred and how it has affected her and made her see the realities and complexities of the profession she has taken on. There is also a good turn by Fern Sutherland as Liz’s friend, Jessica. Sutherland’s performance stands out even in a cast like this one which is full of earnest performances.

Ultimately, the plot is rather depressing and the film takes its time to get to its final destination. It is a character study of a surgeon who has come to a crossroads in her life and has discovered that there is much more to her profession than she had originally thought. Jeffs’s direction is probing and hits the right notes towards the conclusion as Liz must confront the events that have occurred in her life, for better or worse.

There is a suicide in the picture which makes the film feel devastatingly sad. This death in the movie triggers the character of Liz’s development and makes her both more self-aware and more understanding of the world around her. Simon McBurney’s McGrath becomes very unlikable when his sexist attitudes are revealed and the character starts to suggest that surgeons should be all men rather than allowing women to work in the field as well. It would have been nice to see the film deal more with McGrath’s bad attitudes and what was necessary to correct them. But, this is Banks’s movie through and through and she makes the film override all its obstacles to become a moving motion picture.

While the last scene of A Mistake doesn’t answer all the questions the audience may have in regards to Liz’s future, the audience is presented with a different Liz than the one we meet early on in the movie. Banks makes the transformation delicately and superbly and deserves to be credited as a serious dramatic actress. If anyone thought Banks didn’t have what it takes to strut her dramatic chops on-screen successfully, this film will prove them wrong. Banks has done dramatic parts before but A Mistake marks her most wholly successful dramatic triumph as an actress.

Rating: 7/10

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