A self-destructive housewife takes
what may be her final step into the abyss in this
independent psychological drama. Nancy Stockwell (Maria
Bello) is a woman edging into her forties who has fallen
into a deep and prolonged state of depression, finding
her only solace in self-inflicted pain. Nancy has grown
weary of her relationship with her husband, Albert
(Rufus Sewell), and one day he comes home from work to
find a note in which Nancy says she's decided to visit
an old friend for a few days. When Nancy doesn't call
after several days, Albert begins to worry that
something is wrong, and he soon learns that Nancy hasn't
told him the truth. Nancy has struck up an on-line
relationship with Louis Farley (Jason Patric), who has a
passion for violent sex, and she has decided to meet
with him in person, but she has more in mind than just a
fling - she believes that Louis is the man who can end
her misery by killing her.
"It's a very dark drama about a very
destructive woman. It's a script that was sent to me. I
can't even remember how I got it but I liked it
instantaneously and we spent six months re-writing it
and re-writing it. It is about the fact that in order to
be able to love somebody for real, you have to give up a
significant part of yourself. You have to take out a
chunk of yourself and replace it with a part of another
person and in a way you then become a part of that other
person and if you're not able to do that, you're not
able to love, in a way. This very sad and depressing
story is about that and a relationship gone very, very
wrong to the extent that the lead character wants to
kill herself based on the misery she feels of a wasted
Ella Taylor, NPR:
"Downloading Nancy" comes stacked with pedigree talent —
Maria Bello and Rufus Sewell in front of the camera,
legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle behind it.
None of it, though, can rescue this repellent piece of
work from its preening self-regard.
The end credits coyly announce that the movie, which
purports to be about the existential travails of an
unhappily married woman who's addicted to pain, was
"inspired by true events."
Swedish director Johan Renck — along with his equally
culpable screenwriters, Pamela Cuming and Lee Ross —
apparently aspires to a higher order of human
storytelling, culled from his vast experience making
commercials and music videos.
Ostentatiously frumped out in shapeless cardigans and
greasy hair — and what is it, may one ask, that attracts
otherwise gifted actresses to any old part that will
showcase their inner head case? — Bello plays Nancy, a
troubled woman married for 15 stifling years to her bore
of a husband.
Said bore is played by Rufus Sewell, whose performance
offers the film's lone source of ironic pleasure; it's
an understated departure from his usual sinister
persona. Albert is a stodgy obsessive-compulsive who
meets adversity by teeing up golf balls on his shag
carpet. Accordingly, much golfing ensues when Nancy
fails to return home after leaving a note saying she'd
be "spending a few days with friends."
It turns out that the poor woman, who was, you know,
mistreated in childhood by a bad uncle to the point
where she can, you know, no longer feel, has met a
similarly tortured kindred spirit named Louis (Jason
Patric) via the Web. With his dubious help, she is
busily attempting to regain the knack for sensation.
Renck does know how to catch the eye, so if you get your
jollies from watching Bello cut herself with a razor,
pleasure herself against a computer screen or subject
herself to sadomasochistic congress with her new
Internet pal, "Downloading Nancy" is the movie for you.
I'd defend such excess to the hilt if it were deployed
to some purpose — as in David Cronenberg's "A History of
Violence", which actually thought out loud, and
usefully, about violence in and out of the family. But
not this excess. And not this film.
Renck clearly means to turn movie-of-the-week platitudes
on their heads, especially the ones about healing: He
portrays Nancy's therapist (Amy Brenneman) as a hapless
twit spouting feel-good cliches while her client merrily
slices up her own thighs in the bathroom.
Dousing his sets in the washed-out colors of drab
reality and tracking his zombie protagonists with a
hand-held camera — more often than not the last refuge
of the pointlessly arty — Renck traffics in trite indie
grunge and the cheap reversals of fashionable despair.
"Downloading Nancy" is peppered with product placement
for a soft drink whose makers, with any luck, will
suffer severe consumer blowback for getting behind this
awful movie. But the most fitting response surely came
from the packs of moviegoers at last year's Sundance
Film Festival, who upped and left when they could stand
no more of this pretentious rubbish.