Every so often, we are gifted a film that exceeds just that – A visual medium displaying an invaluable glimpse into the intricacies of human behaviour. On the surface, NANCY may seem like your run-of-the-mill psychological drama… But I promise you, it is so much more.
We’re introduced to a young woman named Nancy (Andrea Riseborough), our protagonist who seemingly indulges in pathological lying. Digging into the roots of her home life, it becomes clear why such compulsive behaviour exists within the malnourished soul of a woman tormented by an otherwise empty existence. After the sudden passing of her mother, she happens upon a news broadcast outlining a couple who is still searching for their daughter that disappeared 30 years prior. After viewing a digital image of what the daughter is assumed to look like present day, Nancy becomes convinced that she is the missing girl in question.
I’m at a loss for words when it comes to NANCY, which is an extremely positive thing in this case. This tugged on my heartstrings in a multitude of ways – Hyper-focusing on the most painful aspect of life, loss. Deeply emotional in every aspect, it serves as an examination of human emotion, and how loss effects behaviour. How mental illness and distortions can arise as a result of longing for an alternate reality where each and every one of us receives the love that we are owed. How inclined we all are to skew reality in efforts to maintain hold of hope.
The biggest thing about these kinds of movies – Ones that wax heavy on characterization, is the cast. The timing in which NANCY fell into my lap could not have been better, as I had watched Mandy very shortly before – Andrea Riseborough playing both Nancy and Mandy in their respective films. There are not enough compliments in the world to summate how I feel about her ability as an actress. Especially contrasting these two very different films, I was absolutely blown away by how incredibly raw and believable her performance was.
Though the strongest link in the chain, Riseborough was undoubtedly accompanied by a lump sum of heavy contenders. Steve Buscemi, cast as the father longing to reunite with his missing offspring, feels as though this role was written for him. Playing the role of his wife, J. Smith-Cameron, too, fills the shoes of this task effortlessly. Their contrasting outlooks juxtaposing the forked road of hope, at one end igniting deep skepticism and hesitation; the other complete entrapment, and willingness to ignore factual evidence in efforts to end their suffering.
Truth be told, a piece of dialogue summates this picture perfectly in a moment shared between Nancy and her suspected biological mother. Inquiring about why Ellen (Smith-Cameron) found talent in her writing, she stated that Nancy’s words brought her into her world… A touching moment, and a double entendre for the viewer. Christina Choe, writer and director of this unforgettable work of art, brought me into her world with her impressive, full-length debut.