Wow, what a year for Andrea Riseborough.

No sooner had I devoured the Nicolas Cage-infused madness that is ‘Mandy’, than up popped this screener, billed as a ‘psychological thriller’ and pushing Riseborough very much front and centre.

I’ll be honest, if you come into this expecting a ‘thriller’ you are likely to be sorely disappointed, but if you are after a slow-burning, thought-provoking slice of adult drama with a crackerjack central performance, then Nancy is for you.

Riseborough stars as the titular character, a 30-something stuck in a trailer-trash home with a sick mother (Ann Dowd in a brief turn), breaking out of her psychological mire by inventing a series of personalities via online blogs, courting interest and sympathy in equal measure. To throw more into the mix, she’s also a dab hand at photoshop, proudly showing off a series of photos to fellow staff at a temping job documenting her ‘holiday in North Korea’ as an example.

Nancy’s world turns upside down though when she catches a news story about a couple’s quest to locate their long-lost daughter, supposedly kidnapped thirty years earlier when aged five. Fitting the age, and looking uncannily like the artist impression of how the daughter may look now (coupled with some exposition that throws in the fact Nancy has been told she was adopted) she puts two and two together and is convinced that she is the number four.

So much so in fact that Nancy decides to visit the family in question (played by a dialled-down Steve Buscemi and J Smith-Cameron) and plead her case. But will they believe her – or, perhaps more tellingly, will they even want to believe her?

Writer/director Christina Choe’s (making her feature debut) effort is nothing particularly new, but it is certainly a worthy update on a familiar tale. Nancy scores hugely by playing things straight at all times – the premise after all is one that could oh-so easily descend into over-the-top melodrama, or even hokey horror histrionics. Every time that appears to be the path being trodden though Choe pulls on the reins, keeping the emotions bubbling at the surface and hinted at via suggestion and moments, rather than any ‘grandstanding’ scenes.

And at the centre of this murky maelstrom is Riseborough, putting forth an astonishing performance as Nancy that is quietly devastating. Sullen yet twistedly optimistic, withdrawn yet yearning for social connection, Riseborough plays on the subtleties so well that the quality of her turn may even pass some people by. This is an actress at the top of her game, eschewing anything vaguely resembling ‘showy’ in a role that softly, slowly gnaws away at you.

Riseborough is more than ably supported by both Buscemi and especially Smith-Cameron (whose burgeoning relationship with Nancy forms the real narrative drive), while director Choe’s washed-out, stripped back chilly landscapes suit the mood and tone perfectly.

Nancy is not perfect by any means – the film meanders to a close and there are a handful of moments that, if anything, are too lo-fi for their own good.

But Riseborough is more than worth the price of a purchase, rental (or a download) and this tale of pain, guilt, sorrow and an overwhelming need to ‘belong’ deserves a far greater audience than it is, sadly, ever likely to get.

DVD Review: Nancy
3.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle