SIFF 2018 Review: Nancy


Like many of the Seattle Film Festival 2018 films, Nancy is woman-directed (by Christina Choe), partly produced by Executive Producer Barbara Broccoli, and made with a mostly female and people of color crew—fitting this year’s #MeToo movement emphasis.

Choe admits that she has worked with mostly non-professional actors or relatively inexperienced actors, so she was delighted to have the opportunity to work with such an experienced cast, including Steve Buscemi and Ann Boyd, who play parents whose child disappears 30 years prior and they have never given up hope that she would come back. John Leguizamo has a small but interesting part, and for a change of pace he does not play a smart-ass character like he often does.

The main catch from Choe’s point of view was to get versatile British actress Andrea Riseborough who was her first choice for this challenging role.  As an example of her versatility, Riseborough has played a worldly young woman (Laura) in the proclaimed film Birdman, done sci-fi with Tom Cruise in Oblivion, and even played a young Margaret Thatcher in The Long Walk to Finchley.  Having seen her in these other films, you would have trouble identifying her as the same person in Nancy.

In this film, Andrea plays an incipient writer, a dark, brooding, and somewhat creepy character (Nancy, of course), whose life’s dreams have been curtailed by poverty and, more drastically, by having to care for her sickly and cantankerous mother in out-of-the way small town America (upstate New York maybe?).  When a recent news story gives her the idea that she might be Leo and Betty’s kidnapped daughter, we, as the viewer can only guess what to expect.  Will this darkish psycho-drama morph into a psycho thriller or will it remain a psychological study in loneliness and loss?

I enjoyed Andrea Riseborough’s acting, thought Ann Boyd (Betty) as the long-grieving mother to be a strong character, and was pleasantly pleased by Steve Buscemi’s natural ability to play a normal, albeit subtly dramatic character, as Leo, the long-grieving father (this is versus the often weird character roles he is famous for playing).

Film buffs may admire the cleverness of the 3/4 format of filming.  The shots of Nancy in the first part of the movie are filmed in a square format and the scenes are dark.  When Nancy meets Leo and Betty we have a wider format with brighter colors.  This is quite effective in changing mood.

Nancy is not an action thriller by any means and I think those who will enjoy it most are those who seek “arty” films that lead to a good discussion among friends.  This movie lends itself perfectly to that as we are left with many questions to ask and answer.

This movie was reviewed as part of coverage for the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF 2018).

By Karen Samdahl
Related categories: Movie Reviews, SIFF