Movies · Reviews

Katie Says Goodbye Review: An Endlessly Devastating Journey

By  · Published on October 12th, 2016

Olivia Cooke is radiant in one of the year’s best breakout performances.

I imagine that for any viewer there is a threshold of just how much despair they can handle in a single film. I have always been one to revel in the misery of characters on screen. With my favorite television series being The Leftovers, one can only imagine. Alas, it seems that I have finally found my limit in Wayne Roberts’ debut feature Katie Says Goodbye.

Bates Motel actress Olivia Cooke stars as Katie, an angelic seventeen-year-old working as a waitress in Southwestern diner. With her mother (Mireille Enos) doing nothing to help pay rent on their trailer, Katie has also taken up work as a prostitute. After meeting the brutish Bruno (Christopher Abbot) and quickly falling in love, Katie finally sets and end goal for herself: she will continue to save money until she has enough to leave her town and live in San Francisco. Unfortunately, with diner owner Maybelle (Mary Steenburgen) being the only positive figure in her life, Katie has no one to rely on and no acquaintance will ease her plight.

Katie Says Goodbye presents the viewer (and this critic) with a difficult dilemma. Where does a film so excruciating to watch become a “good movie”? One cannot doubt the craft on display. Roberts clearly has a strong grasp on the material, directing what is no doubt completely coherent and moving piece of work. In addition, Olivia Cooke’s performance is absolutely incredible. If the film was not such a hard sell it would easily make Cooke an A-list star overnight. While it may be challenging for the viewer to understand the precise reasoning behind each of Katie’s actions, there is no doubt that Cooke has crafted a multi-layered character; a portrayal so dedicated that Cooke radiates from the screen throughout. That being said, one cannot help but wonder just what they are supposed to take away from the whole experience. At times it is blatant that Katie is about to put herself in yet another terrible situation, yet Katie proceeds without hesitation.

As brutal as Katie Says Goodbye may be to experience, one cannot help but commend Roberts’ control over the viewer. There is surely a skill in the transcendence of the film’s draining misery. Roberts has crafted a tragedy of the highest tier, one so effective that any viewer will be forcibly moved, but for what purpose? Thus remains the underlying question ringing throughout the film. The film is undeniably effective. It features what is possibly one of the year’s strongest breakouts, and is sure dampen just about any viewer’s image of the world we live in. Though what exactly is it trying to say? I’m not so sure.

The Best Films We Watched at The 2016 Toronto Film Festival

Related Topics:

Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films.