Downloading Nancy Movie Review: Sexing Up Suicide In Cyberspace

While the damaging emotional side effects in the pursuit of instant pseudo-intimacy in cyberspace haven’t been explored nearly as much in movies as on the evening news, with Johan Renck’s Downloading Nancy, you may be getting a lot more than you ever bargained for. More downer than downloading, this adventure in ‘self-inflicting’ essentially recounts a hyper-sexual tearing to shreds with assorted razors and broken glass, of one self-loathing woman’s bodily flesh, as erotic foreplay to an eventual encounter with self-extinction.

Maria Bello is the radically unhinged Nancy in question, a tantrum prone shrew in search of some creatively kinky assisted suicide. So she embarks on an Internet search for a rendezvous with the grim reaper, which is apparently just a mouse click away in chatroom cyberspace these days. who knew.

Nancy is also in determined flight from a fifteen year bad marriage to Albert (Rufus Sewall), an emotionally inattentive spouse who is more fond of his golf clubs and hookers than he is of Nancy, no surprise there. And responding to her online plea for a little quality bonding – as in shackles – is Louis (Jason Patric), no picture of mental wholesomeness himself.

And in a more than odd reinventing of the notion of ’till death do us part,’ while taking his married lover on a sado-masochistic joy ride of sorts complete with a newly purchased ball gown to literally die for, Louis encapsulates the courtship phase of their deranged romance with the words, ‘Just let me be your pain.’ Though it turns out that Nancy is already pretty much of a pain herself, of the in your face variety, to everyone around her, tormenting others in her path even more than herself. Including impulsively trashing stores and restaurants, and somehow passing the cashier without ever footing the bill.

What’s most unintentionally bizarre about this movie, is why nobody, not even Nancy’s fretting shrink, ever mulls escorting her over to the nearest mental ward all these years – hello! – instead of inflicting these two hours of secondary torture on the audience too. Though the stellar ensemble cast all doing extreme anger mismanagement junkies to go around is certainly not to blame, in this way beyond the call of duty acting gig possibly instigated by filmmakers with some unresloved S&M issues of their own. This, while all the characters seem to be having patient to shrink-style heart to heart talks with each other, instead of what usually passes for normal conversation, even in offbeat fare such as this.

Perhaps a movie probing mental health and cyberspace should be made or needed to be made, whatever. But a film that itself voyeuristically fetishizes both psychosis and the usual female torture on screen is, sorry to say, just not cool at all.

Strand Releasing


one star

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.