Nancy Stockwell (Maria Bello) is in a … ‘loveless’ is too nice of a word. There is a void where love should be. She spends her time self harming and talking to her therapist (Amy Brenneman) about her truly terrible childhood. Oh, and talking to strangers on the internet about her masochistic fantasies.
Her husband, Albert (Rufus Sewell), spends his time in the basement playing some sort of golf game that’s half real and half virtual.
Then one day he finds a note on the table—she’s gone to see friends in Baltimore.
He didn’t know she knew anyone in Baltimore. But then again, Albert doesn’t know much about his wife, as they don’t talk to one another or spend time together.
So Nancy has gone to visit a friend, Louis Farley (Jason Patric), who she met on the internet. And who is going to do all the things she wants. Due to her truly terrible childhood she wants some fairly horrific things and one very specific request.
Days go by and Nancy spends time with Louis and Albert has no idea where his wife is, but he doesn’t call the police (which is believable—people behave strangely in stressful situations). Nancy and Louis play little S/M games that aren’t particularly sexy but are realistic and get to know one another.
Eventually Louis goes to see Albert to see what he knows. Nothing has gone the way it was supposed to.
The reviews for Downloading Nancy are harsh. And I don’t understand why. It wasn’t the best film I’ve ever seen, but I enjoyed it. I’d even watch it again. It was a character study about profoundly sad people. Apparently audience members walked out of it at Sundance. These people have not seen the same films I’ve seen.
Red letters on the promo poster warn: The most controversial film you’ll see this year.
These people have not seen the same films I’ve seen, either.
Seriously, though. I thought it was interesting enough. It’s not the sort of masochism that’s sexy to watch. It’s the sort of masochism that’s realistic. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re trying to get a little something going on for date night. Maybe if you’re looking for ideas for a scene.
It’s one of those quiet sorts of films where no one communicates with the people they most need to communicate with. Like American Beauty. With genital mutilation (off-screen).
I wasn’t crazy about equating Nancy’s need for pain and hating herself and whatnot with her childhood, but here we are.
All of the performances were good—restrained when there could have been scenery chewing—but Maria Bello’s was off the charts. It’s not a happy film. It probably would have been better received in Europe. There was a truth to it.
And there’s something that you learn at the very end that’s sort of spoilery. Some people may find it to be a spoiler and some may not. It’s based on a true story. That of Sharon Lopatka, who advertised online for someone to kill her during/after sex. This was in 1996, several years before the Armin Meiwes case. It’s called consensual homicide, apparently.
I’d give it 3/5. Maybe 4/5 depending on how much a person enjoys depressing films, which I do.