Film Review: NANCY (USA 2017) ***1/2

Nancy Poster

Nancy becomes increasingly convinced she was kidnapped as a child. When she meets a couple whose daughter went missing thirty years ago, reasonable doubts give way to willful belief.


Christina Choe

NANCY opens with the title character, Nancy (Andrea Riseborough) looking after her ill-tempered mother, Betty (Ann Dowd, last seen in HEREDITARY).  The mother is ungrateful, nasty, impatient and rude making Nancy wonder the reason she is that way, as she has always been pleasant towards her mother.  The two watch OLIVER TWIST on  television, the Charles Dicken’s story of an orphan.

When the mother dies, 15 minutes into the film, Nancy watches on television the news of a mother who has had lost her daughter about 30 years ago.  Nancy thinks she might be the missing daughter and contacts Ellen (J, Smith-Cameron) and her husband (Steve Buschemi).  Nancy heads out to meet them, the meeting being the rest of he film.  Revealing more of the plot would definitely spoil the film’s effectiveness.  All that needs be said is that writer/director Choe has made an effective psychological mystery drama.

The film is set in winter in the country where Ellen and her husband live.  The falling snow and snow covered woods are beautifully shot by cinematography her Zoe White, who went on to shoot THE HANDSMAID TALE after being noticed for her work in this film.

NANCY speaks to a lot of Americans for reason of the main character’s demise.  

NANCY gives voice to and represents the many disappointed, disconnected twenty-

first-century millennials making up the first-world.   These are adults struggling to grow up, yet

unable to identify where boredom ends and untreated mental health issues begin.   Nancy is a confused grown-up kid, unable to really function socially, unable to afford to fly the coop, their 

youth saturated by inflation, aware of the dream that capitalism promises, yet living on the 

outskirts of its failings. 

Longing for physical connection, and attempting to find it through online self-

misrepresentation, Nancy has a short meeting with a well-meaning Jeb played by John Leguizamo.  Nancy wrestles with unemployment, only able to obtain a temporary job with insufficient hours.  The character also, when the film opens, has returned from a visit to Korea – not South but North Korea, to the surprise of the person Nancy was speaking to.  Nancy claims that it was easy to go there.  The choice of North Korea depicts the kind of vacation Nancy would be interested with – going to a country with dispirited and oppressed people. Director Choe herself has visited North Korea.

The film’s message comes across loud and clear as voiced by Ellen (J. Smith-Cameron, who delivers the film’s best performance): “We have to appreciate what we have now.  It is the only thing that matters.”

NANCY belongs to the category of low budget films that often struggle at the box-office but is worth a look for effort and result.  The film has already received accolades having been nominated for the following two categories of ‘Best First Screenplay’ and ‘Best Supporting Female’ for the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards.  In addition, the film won the ‘Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award’ at Sundance this year.



Film Review: AMERICAN ANIMALS (UK 2018) ***

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American Animals Poster

Four young men mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious heists in U.S. history.


Bart Layton


Bart Layton


Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan), Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) are four friends who live an ordinary existence in Kentucky.   They plan, from watching old crime movies, to to steal the rarest and most valuable books from the university’s library that are worth $12 million or so.   The film unfolds, documentary style with the real men (other actors) re-telling the stories in flashback.  Writer/director Bart Layton, redoes the similar style of his hit 2012 documentary THE IMPOSTER which had won him a BAFTA Award.

“We must suppose that AMERICAN ANIMALS  – slowly migrated by successive generations from the outer world to the deeper and deeper recesses of the Kentucky caves.”  These words inform the audience right at the start of the story.

One can tell from the film’s start AMERICAN ANIMALS is not going to be the ordinary run-of-the-mill heist film.  It begins with the word “Based not on a True Story” followed by the fading out of the words followed by the word ‘not’ faded out.  Which implies that this fictional tale cold very be a true one.  Or a true tale that could be fiction.

“There was nothing in that background that would suggest something like that might happen.  They were pretty good kids.”  says the teacher at the start of the film, as a teen puts up blue make-up around his eyes, for a disguise to commit a heist.

There is a segment in the film when the director demonstrates a textbook example on how to life the spirit of an audience.  This includes arousing music, dancing and other scenes involving throwing caution to the wind.

Well written with lots of movie references, the film’s best line after they discover the enormous value of their loot: “We need  a bigger boat.”   Another involves Eddie trying to convince his friend to decide whether to be in or out of the venture without disclosing any details of the it: “This is your red or blue pill moment.”   The RESERVOIR DOGS nod is also surprisingly funny.  Another well-written set-up involves Eddie being bright into the Dean’s office for a pep talk which turns around once Eddie turns the tables on the talk.

As one character, the professor talks about the robbers in his classroom, the chalk scribblings on the board in the background make intriguing details that might give some additional insight into the film.  These are the details and little nuances that make AMERICAN ANIMALS stand out from the many heist films.  Needless to say, the film is often smart, funny and fresh.

Barry Keoghan plays Spencer, one of the robbers.  Keoghan was discovered by director Yorgos Lanthimos in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER and was last seen in Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK.  He has that special look of a disturbed youth.  I would see any film Keoghan is in, he being one of the brightest new presence in films.  Actor Udo Kier who is fond of playing odd characters has a cameo as a ‘fence’, the person who guys valuable questionable goods.

AMERICAN ANIMALS is funny, fresh, smart and original while still playing homage to classic films.


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