- Nikki Baughan
- 8 October 2018
Andrea Riseborough is astonishing in Christina Choe's compelling and poignant feature debut
Andrea Riseborough gives a powerful, enigmatic performance as the titular character in short filmmaker Christina Choe's poignant debut feature. Riseborough anchors a twisting narrative that often skates close to morally questionable territory, but remains a compelling portrait of identity, love and connection in the modern world.
Drab, down-at-heel Nancy is a deliberately slippery character from the outset; her own life on hold as she cares for her dying mother (Ann Dowd), she interacts with the outside world via social media. She is obviously extremely lonely, which goes some way to explaining the lies she tells her online friends about herself in order to win their trust. But when she sees a news story about a couple whose daughter went missing 30 years before, her behaviour becomes increasingly extreme.
While it may sound like a straightforward drama, Nancy actually plays like a wilfully challenging character study. Choe's well-observed screenplay and Riseborough's astonishing performance – one moment she's a plaintive victim of circumstance, the next an emotional manipulator – leave her behaviour open to suggestion. Is she consciously deceptive, playing on the emotions of others in order to feel something herself – harmless enough when she lies about a trip to North Korea, far more problematic when she makes up a failed pregnancy to bond with a grieving father (a fantastic John Leguizamo). Or is she simply desperate to find her place in a world that seems determined to reject her?
Indeed, as cinematographer Zoe White paints working class upstate New York in oppressive grey tones, and Peter Raeburn's often jarring score keeps the atmosphere on edge, it's easy to sympathise with Nancy's need for escape, even if her methods are obviously reprehensible. And, while Nancy may be a woman of few words, and the narrative keeps a measured pace with few dramatic bursts, her experiences throw up some truly compelling questions about the nature of the ties that bind us.
Selected release from Fri 12 Oct.