Review: Downloading Nancy

Published 7 years ago by

By Vic Holtreman

1star Review: Downloading Nancy

Short version: A bleak and starkly shot film that left me feeling like I needed a shower after watching it.

Downloading Nancy premiered here at Sundance 2008 and is the story of Nancy (played by Maria Bello), a severely emotionally damaged woman married to and emotionally cold man (Rufus Sewell as Albert) who turns to the internet for companionship.

The film opens with Nancy discussing her thoughts on what happens after you die with another woman. At this point it sounds like she is optimistic about the afterlife while her friend is very negative and keeps bringing up counterpoints to make it sound like she could be somehow trapped in some way after death. As it turns out, the friend turns out to be a therapist who is trying to convince Nancy that death is not an escape or freedom.

Her husband Albert is a successful businessman in the golf industry, and it consumes his life. He is very cold to his wife, which is doubly unfortunate because of the fact that she has deep emotional problems stemming from being the victim of sexual abuse as a child. She is teeming with self-loathing and his attitude towards her certainly doesn’t help matters.

She turns to Louis (Jason Patric), who she has exchanged hundreds of emails and instant messages with for comfort, or as close a thing to comfort as she is able to achieve. She self-mutilates with razor blades and she enjoys pain, all due to her uber-negative self image.

One night she leaves home, leaving nothing more than a note for Albert stating that she is going to stay with friends in Baltimore. Instead she heads off to meet Louis, and their initial meeting, now in the real world seems awkward.

Of course at first we think it is going to be nothing more than a brief sexual affair, but as it turns out Louis has walls lined with homemade videotapes (we never discover exactly what is on those tapes, but we can make a pretty good guess). The situation takes an even odder turn when Nancy mentions that she has “brought the money” that he has asked for.

As the story moves forward it becomes clear that what Nancy wants from Louis is for him to kill her, and release her from her torturous existence. Nancy’s therapist (played by Amy Brenneman) tries and tries to get through to her, but to no avail.

The story is disjointed in that time-wise it jumps all over the place. In the end it does paint a picture of Nancy and Albert’s life and the growth of the relationship between her and Louis.

Now to some of you this may sound interesting, and I suppose it could have been, but the overall effect of this movie with it’s bland, bright and washed out colors on the screen and the details of the relationships that we are subjected to is quite depressing (yes, I get it, that’s the point) and to be honest left me feeling more than a bit dirty to have been witness to all this. Not “porn” dirty, but “slimey” dirty, like going through someones dirty laundry.

I watched this at a press screening and about a dozen people got up and walked out during the showing. About two or three actually applauded at the end of it, but I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

The closer the film got to the end the more ridiculous it became in conjunction with the boredom and frankly, repulsive stuff going on.

About 3/4 of the way through the film I was hoping for “release” almost as much as Nancy. I honestly don’t understand how an actor can look at a script like this and not just say: “Damn, that is f’ed up!” and just move on to the next one.

I’m giving this one star out of deference to the acting and the editing, but that’s it. Big thumbs down from me.

Our Rating:

1 out of 5

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. I haven’t even seen the movie but this review was simply terrible. No wonder no one has bothered to comment it yet.

    There you go, someone had to say it, and I kinda feel like I’m doing you a favor by doing so.

    Don’t quit your day job, Vic Holtreman.

  2. Maybe no one has commented on this review because no one gives a damn about this crappy movie.

    Maybe you ought to WATCH the movie before commenting on a review.

    Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.


  3. Well I think it was a good review…sadly I read it post viewing to confirm my suspicions that other people might also have balked at the horrid content. Grim movie and that’s 2 hours I won’t get back… sigh.

  4. Great review.. spot on. To bad I read it post viewing. I was curious as to how others reacted to this grim flick. The score was pretty stellar, that stands out. And the camera work/acting good as well.. I just think it’s a matter of taste and I found it immensely depressing. Sigh.

  5. That would be ‘too bad’ oof.. seconds later I see this.. please add an edit feature:)

  6. For me, this movie was emotionally charged from start to finish. It’s not a “feel good” movie, but an unrelenting portrait of harsh reality. It was hard to watch, and pushed lots of buttons in me. It moved me. There was a lot to process mentally, and even physically. How many movies can you say that about? With all the violence, none of it was explicit or gratuitous. The acting was outstanding, and I am still thinking about various aspects of human nature. I wish more folks would see it and have more conversations about the content, rather than just dismiss it out of hand.

  7. Grim, yes. But does that mean it’s a bad movie? I mean, Leaving Las Vegas was grim; Seven was grim. How about Apocalypse Now? Grim.

    Grim can be thought provoking, and this one was for me. There has always a place in cinema for films that make us uncomfortable. My question is, where is the place for those of us who appreciated the film to talk about it?

    Anyone else?

  8. Oops. Just read Rhonda’s comment. ::removes foot from mouth::

    Yes, let’s have a conversation about the content. The big question I came away with was, “How well do I know my own wife?” I realized I’d been neglecting her, and started wondering about her dark side. We all have one, but how deep is hers? I’ve made a point to pay her more attention. But, didn’t Albert think he was paying appropriate attention to Nancy?

    Is there anything he could have done to “save” her?

  9. I just finished watching it and thought it was amazing.

    It’s so refreshing that in a world of endless sequels, remakes, and reimagings, that occasionally a film can still be produced that isn’t all about the bottom line, and is instead about real actors acting.

  10. Those who struggle each day with dark, hidden pain will find this movie to be a sudden shock of heavenly light and mind bending hope. Jason Patrick has proven himself an actor of the highest. He bares and unleashes our daily pain, and our desperate grasping for truth, love and a life without cruelty. He tells our truth in every moment, in every act, in every reaction. The compassion he unveils is breath taking, redeeming, almost holy. He makes us look beautiful, dignified, promising, loving and most importantly loveable. Mr. Patrick is our generations finest actor.