Downloading Nancy (2009)
US (dir. Johan Renck)
Cast: Maria Bello, Amy Brenneman, David Brown, Jason Patric, Rufus Stockwell
Synopsis: When Albert Stockwell (Rufus Sewell, Dark City, Illuminata) comes home from work one day, he finds a note from his wife of 15 years, Nancy (Maria Bello, A History of Violence, Thank You for Smoking), saying she has gone to see friends. After waiting several days, Albert realizes that his wife is missing. Nancy has met her salvation on the Internet in the form of Louis Farley (Jason Patric, The Lost Boys, Rush). Nancy and Louis, both wounded souls, take comfort in one another through e-mail, pictures, and promises of perverse sexual encounters. Nancy has finally found the one and only thing that can liberate her from the pain in her life. While she pursues the freedom that she feels will only come with ultimate liberation, Albert is left to put the pieces together and try to salvage what is left.
Review: “Downloading Nancy” is a rare find because it deals with themes and real situations that are hardly ever explored in movies these days. It has a difficult subject matter and is pretty much one of the most difficult movies I’ve ever had to sit through. This isn’t a movie you watch with friends, and this isn’t a movie you watch for any entertainment value persay. It’s bleak, it’s ugly, and it’s real. It unfortunately suffers from a rather bad title, but that’s pretty much the only bad thing about it.
We don’t get to know a lot about Nancy, a rape victim who enjoys being hurt during sex and who cuts herself on a fairly regular basis, but we do get to catch glimpses of her daily life… cyber-fucking her Internet lover, masterbating with sharp objects, cutting her arms for release, and living a zombie-like existence alongside her zombie-ish husband, Albert (played superbly by real-life zombie, Rufus Sewell). Her husband Albert is essentially a walking, talking zombie. He builds a virtual golf course in his basement where he endlessly whacks balls into a poster of a golf course, listens to golf meditation tapes, and essentially ignores his wife in almost every aspect (sex, conversation, personal interests etc.). He can’t even bring himself to have sex with her… he instead just masterbates on her back as he shoves her face into the pillows. It’s remarkable to me how this woman could live with such a man for so long. During several flashbacks of Albert and Nancy’s miserable and dull marriage I had to wonder why Nancy would even marry this man. It likely might have stemmed from desperation or loneliness, but I really can’t feel sorry for her too much since no one really held a gun to her head and forced her to marry this zombie man. From what information we are given, it would seem Nancy married Albert by choice, so really I don’t see why she didn’t see 15 years of a bleak boring life coming and make an effort to leave him or just not get married in the first place. Sadly, Albert doesn’t even seem to concern himself too greatly when Nancy disappears for a week. He tries calling 911, but just hangs up the phone and goes back to his zombie existence as if his wife’s disappearance is merely an inconvenience. He is devoid of emotions and can only express blind rage when he discovers his wife has been having an affair. In his defense, he does become concerned/sickened when he realizes the perverted and dangerous things his wife has been exploring (sexually) with her new lover, but he doesn’t really understand that these violent fantasies his wife has are the only things that give her pleasure in life and is the closest thing to love she can get to.
In terms of the Nancy character, I would have to say that this is by far one of Maria Bello’s most intriguing performances yet. She is very nearly edging out Naomi Watts as my all-time favourite actress. This role is very heavy and requires a lot of depth. I don’t know how Maria Bello pulled it off with such ease. She doesn’t even have to say anything at some times. You can just look at her face and see this wounded human being with these large, vacant, pleading eyes. As usual she fucking owns this movie. I don’t what it is with Maria Bello and rough/kinky sex scenes (i.e. A History of Violence, where she has rough sex on the stairs causing her back to be black and blue) but this woman has the market cornered on the rough film sex. Incredible performance from this woman. Just incredible.
This movie is controversial not because of the violence, not because of the rough sex, and not because of the abuse, but because the ending cannot satisfy you as a viewer. The ending is meant to satisfy Nancy; it’s the ending she wants to have. She wants to suffer and die and wake up from the nightmare that is her life. This makes the film controversial because we as the audience want desperately for her to salvage her life, to fall in love with her internet boyfriend, and live happily ever after. But that is not what Nancy yearns for… she is too broken to be saved. Even when she finds love, and even when she is accepted by another human being who shares her pain and helps her release her sexual frustration, she still cannot be saved. It was really difficult to watch this broken, hurt woman. The worst part is that you have to see her get even more broken and even more hurt because that is the only love she knows of. Her uncle left her raped and physically damaged as a child. Her husband leaves her emotionally raped as a grown women (after 15 years of a dead-end marriage). And her Internet lover, who she pays to torture and kill her, leaves her hurt once again as he admits cannot kill her since he has fallen in love. Eventually, Nancy does get what she wants. The tragedy is that it is too late for her husband to realize how Nancy has suffered while living with him and that it is too late for Louis (the Internet boyfriend) to keep the woman he loves.
While this is not a conventional horror movie, it does have many graphic, reality-based horror moments (Nancy cutting herself, Louis torturing Nancy, Albert torturing Louis after discovering about Nancy’s affair etc.) It’s a powerful story and it’s driven by a fantastic script devoid of any wishy-washy sentimental/salvation story crap. It’s superbly directed, and worth a see. Trust me, this will haunt you in ways some horror movies never will.