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Sundance 2018 Review: ‘Nancy’

Sundance 2018 Review: ‘Nancy’

Nancy is a weird drama centering around one couple reuniting with their adult daughter after she was kidnapped as a child.

Nancy, directed and written by Christina Choe, is a dreary film that begins with a young woman, Nancy Freeman (Andrea Riseborough), still living at home with her mom Betty (Ann Dowd) and working a mundane job. She sees couple Leo (Steve Buscemi) and Ellen (J. Smith-Cameron) on the local news talking about the disappearance and continued search for their missing daughter, Brooke.

Nancy, looking for a change in life, decides that she could be their daughter, and calls them up to share this theory convincingly as her version of the truth. While there is an undeniable resemblance, the film spends most of its time teetering back and forth between whether or not she truly is Brooke.

The majority of the film is Nancy reconnecting with her “parents,” while they figure out whether or not they can trust her. They have been burned by another young woman before, and Leo understandably has his guard up. Ellen is a bit more open and you watch her slowly become more and more enthralled with Nancy being her Brooke. Ellen, flourishes when Nancy is around, and she breaks out of her shell when her “daughter” re-emerges.

While the film has a unique premise, the pacing is terribly slow for me. The film has bleak lighting and barely any sun, adding to the feeling of uncertainty and dread. A point of contention for me was the suspense around the DNA results. In my opinion, it was far too much, and took too long to resolve. I found myself saying: “Just tell us already!”

The Problem with the Biopic

While Andrea, Steve, and J. do the script they are given justice, it is mostly because there isn’t much character growth or stretch. One thing the director has an uncanny ability to do is make you question everything throughout the film. I found myself starting off believing without a shadow of a doubt that Nancy was lying about her identity. As her “mother” Ellen softens, somewhere so did I. Although this film was definitely not for me, if you like suspense dramas around uncovering true identities, then maybe Nancy is for you.

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