BFI London Film Festival Reviews

Nancy – BFI London Film Festival 2018 Review

Andrea Riseborough is one of our most gifted actresses. The British star has made a name for herself in movies such as Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,) Welcome to the Punch, and television series National Treasure. With big haunting eyes and the ability to transform like a shape-shifter into her characters, Riseborough is an amazing performer. Her gifted talent has spectacularly captured us all. She also backs female led movies and has her own small production company Mothersucker. The actress definitely continues her Rise…borough.

Awful puns aside, Riseborough is one of the few actresses that has two films in the BFI London Film Festival where she plays the titular role; Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy and this, Christina Choe’s Nancy.

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The brooding drama is a spectacular exploration of the anti-heroine. Also written by Choe, the film revolves around Nancy Freeman, a woman who, through boredom, concocts fantastical stories online to connect with strangers. She writes blogs for miscarriage websites, Photoshops her holidays, and lives in a social media world beyond that of her bitter and ill mother. When Nancy watches a TV spot about a missing child, she discovers that the “thirty years later” photo composite looks exactly like her. Nancy decides to hunt down the couple – Ellen and Leo – to see if they are really her parents…

Christina Choe has crafted a delectably intriguing tale that blurs the lines of lying and life. The film quietly delves under the hood of a maligned person who has crafted many different falsehoods about herself to the extent that she is unsure of who she is. As a viewer too, you also battle with the truth as you are equally convinced and unconvinced about Nancy’s true identity. The film is an assured debut by Choe that uncovers an emotional connection between us all – the want for connection and completion.

Andrea Riseborough is impeccably cast as the tedium riddled woman struggling to find an identity yet falling into home and finding herself yearning to be this couple’s estranged daughter. Riseborough magnificently digs under the skin of her character and her role as an anti-heroine is really defined her. Nancy isn’t a likeable character; in the first half she tricks a grieving father into believing she is a pregnant woman with an ill child. Yet Nancy is also alone, living with Ann Dowd’s vicious mother and unable to connect to the world around her without it being a falsehood. Riseborough confidently exhumes the character as she grows close to Leo and Ellen, achingly wanting to belong there.

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Playing opposite Riseborough is J. Smith Cameron’s desparate Ellen. Here’s a woman whose mourning has been constantly open. Never knowing the true whereabouts of her daughter, she’ll never have full closure and Cameron portrays this so well that upon the instant Ellen and Nancy first speak, you hope that Nancy is their daughter. Ellen takes to Nancy with an alarming closeness that is realistic of lamenting and longing. As their relationship develops, it is gloriously enticing and that’s largely through Smith’s performance.

There’s also this wonderful bubble of grief to both Nancy’s lack of belonging and Ellen’s struggle with losing a daughter for over three decades. In many ways the grieving mother and the lost daughter could very well be kindred spirits – related even – and the reveal will never change that.

Nancy is a slow drawling film that may take time for it to claw into your flesh but in a snow-ladden forrest, or the haunting familiarity of a distant memory, Nancy really evolves.

Choe’s astute character study is a phenomenal feature debut.


Nancy plays as part of BFI London Film Festival 
It is out on Digital Download and DVD on 5th November

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