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Katrin Cartlidge in Before the Rain
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Best Katrin Cartlidge Movies, Ranked

Best Katrin Cartlidge Movies, Ranked

Before she died unexpectedly in 2002 at the age of 41, reportedly from complications of pneumonia and septicemia, Katrin Cartlidge crafted an eccentric individual career for herself. Best known for her collaborations with Mike Leigh and Lars Von Trier, Cartlidge was “the greatest actor you’ve never heard of,” as The Independent noted.

She made her film debut in the British television soap opera Brookside (1982–1983). Her follow-up leading role in Leigh’s Naked (1993) showed Cartlidge’s depth and began a frequent collaboration with the director. For her role in Leigh’s Career Girls (1997), Cartlidge won the Evening Standard Film Award for Best Actress. She also worked with the Danish director Lars Von Trier in Breaking The Waves (1996), the Macedonian film director Milcho Manchevski in Before the Rain (1994), and other independent directors.

In the months before her death, Cartlidge was cast in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s powerful drama 21 Grams and Lars von Trier’s avant-garde masterpiece Dogville. But unfortunately, everything stopped. Let’s look at the actress and her bold performances.

6/6 Career Girls

Written and directed by British director Mike Leigh, 1997’s comedy-drama Career Girls tells the story of two women in their 30s, Hannah and Annie (played by Cartlidge and Lynda Steadman), who were college roommates six years ago and now renew their friendship. Touching, sensitive, and easy-going, Career Girls is arguably one of the most underrated Leigh movies.

Related: Best Mike Leigh Movies, Ranked

Cartlidge performs two roles in one, a cheeky college student from the 1980s and a very different woman from the ‘present’ 1990s she grows up to be. The actress’ performance brings a lot of emotionality to Career Girls and helps to craft a portrait of friendship and the passing of time.

5/6 No Man’s Land

Set in the midst of the Bosnian War, Danis Tanović’s 2001 film No Man’s Land follows Nino and Ciki (Rene Bitorajac and Branko Đurić), two soldiers from opposing sides in the armed conflict. One of the finest films on the subject of war, No Man’s Land won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In No Man’s Land, Cartlidge steps into the role of Jane Livingstone, a cold, ambitious cable news reporter. While her role is small, Cartlidge did a brilliant job at bringing Jane to life.

4/6 Before the Rain

Milcho Manchevski’s 1994 drama Before the Rain is a powerful, tragic, and unforgettable film about the director’s native Macedonia and Balkan state violence. Set against the background of political turbulence, the film tells three short stories of love and hate. Cartlidge is memorable in her portrayal of Anne, a photo editor from London, experiencing a complicated relationship with her Macedonian lover Aleksandar (Rade Serbedzija).

In the film, the first and third Macedonian sequences spill over into the London part, where a restaurant becomes the site of a devastating act of violence. It suggests that war is never as far as it seems.

3/6 Claire Dolan

For Lodge Kerrigan’s 1998 drama Claire Dolan, Cartlidge appears as the movie’s title character, an Irish immigrant who becomes a high-priced call girl in New York. This film is unlike any romantic comedies about prostitutes like Pretty Woman, shattering the usual happy-go-lucky heart-of-gold narratives; Claire Dolan is a very real, sad, and bleak drama without a happy end. Cartlidge’s performance is Oscar-worthy. “We lost one of the most charismatic, talented, and intense actresses ever and this film proves it”, wrote one viewer on IMDb.

2/6 Breaking The Waves

Winner of the Grand Prix at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, Lars von Trier’s psychological drama Breaking The Waves arouses a lot of emotions. The film centers on innocent young Bess (Emily Watson), who arrives at a bizarre arrangement with her paralyzed husband Jan (Stellan Skarsgård). Jan urges her to have sex with strangers and report back the details. Bess comes to believe that this is her spiritual mission guided by God. Cartlidge stars in a supporting role as Bess’ protective sister-in-law Dodo, who reassures Bess that her actions won’t affect Jan’s recovery. This disturbing film is not for everyone.

Related: These 5 Movies Sparked Religious Controversy

Naked and Breaking the Waves are anchored by colossal performances by Thewlis and Watson, with Cartlidge providing understated ballast. Indeed, her supporting turns are so fundamental to the power of those films that you can’t imagine them working as well without her”, The Independent stated.

1/6 Naked

Mike Leigh’s 1993 controversial film Naked explores a form of male self-destruction and centers on the gloomy drifter Johnny (one of the best David Thewlis performances), given to manic behavior. Cartlidge plays the druggie Sophie who has a one-night stand with Thewlis’ problematic protagonist.

“I think it’s wonderful that women can start playing characters with more than a couple of sides, some of them not pleasant”, The New York Times quoted Cartlidge. “Audiences are not used to seeing characters like Sophie, who are not trying to get us to fall in love with them. But why do we always have to fall in love with our leading ladies? Why can’t we be just intrigued or puzzled or horrified or amused?”

Cartlidge’s offbeat roles intrigue, puzzle, horrify, and amuse. Just as she wanted.