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Cinema Signal: Significantly flawed, but will be forgivable or ignored by a limited audience.

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. "Downloading Nancy"

An ensemble of four superb actors commit themselves (or, better, submit themselves) to a concept that wins all awards for self-destruction--of the title character and the film itself. Which dooms the enterprise to emotional fatigue, certain commercial failure and brings this writer to warn against it despite its artistic merits. Such a waste.

Beautiful Nancy (Maria Bello), for some inexplicable reason, has been virtually ignored by her husband of many years, Albert (Rufus Sewell). This mistreatment has given her such psychic pain that she has developed a pathology of self-mutilation in which cutting herself brings relief, like the effects of a drug. After such "fixes," she's temporarily liberated from anxiety and stress.

Nancy's sessions with her shrink Carol (Amy Brenneman) don't seem to get anywhere, though the impotency of the therapy is as much because of the patient's very strong resistance as to the storytelling need to withhold relevant information for the sake of drama.

At the same time, Nancy has been very busy on the internet. Presumably after many a chat with potential male cyber-pals she hooks up with Louis (Jason Patric) who is apparently willing to go where few would in order to provide the lady comfort and release. Which leads to Nancy's departure from her incredible creep of a husband Albert with a note causing him to infer that she'll be gone for a few days.

He waits. He talks about it with friends and family. He doesn't call the police, thinking she'll be walking through the door any day now. He waits some more. And, all the while, Nancy is carrying out her plans with Louis, an adventure which is taking on a life of its own.

Swedish Johan Renck directs his first feature film with Krister Linder's heavy music-video hand in post-production. He worked from a script by Pamela Cuming (Happy Hour, a 15-minute short) and first timer Lee Ross to whom this scenario was suggested by a real case--an admission implied by an end credit. But there are realities that no amount of skilled acting can change.

In this story of a maritally debased wife, the credibility factor might have been less tested were the suicidal woman played by Frances McDormand, say, or Kathy Bates. It's not that beautiful women aren't subject to borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia, with which self-mutilation is psychologically associated, but someone like Bello, who will penetrate the emotional center of a character no matter how gut-wrenching, just makes the precept of a disinterested husband a bigger mountain of doubt to climb. Another mountain consists of the 16 producers, executive producers and associate producers it took to make it.

Men: could you possibly be disinterested in this woman?
Bello permeates the dark psychosis as though her soul depended on it--superb actor that she is! She's well supported by her capable fellow thesps, with a strong performance from Patric, though the narrative problems are so deep and the objective he shares with her so profoundly inconsolable, no ultimate salvage is possible. Making matters somewhat worse is the dramatic license. If the cause of her affliction were as simple as a disinterested husband, therapy would be a cinch. But treatment for the real thing is far more elusive.

Downloading Nancy sacrifices reality in order to generate sensationalistic plot possibilities, but what it finally produces is a tortuous immersion into psychic pain and the confusion caused by the way it's contrived. It's enough to put the viewer on the couch.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Maria Bello as Nancy
Downloading a way to relieve pain.

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