By Jesse Hawthorne Ficks
In his third report from the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, it's Midnites for Maniacs programmer and Guardian contributor Jesse Hawthorne Ficks reflects on his personal best of the fest.
Downloading Nancy - directed by Johan Renck (Canada)
Pain and sadness inhabit most of us. Extreme anger can turn into apathy, and relentless insecurity can turn into absolute self-destruction. In Johan Renck's debut feature, shot by Christopher Doyle, each moment, every shot, even the slightest gesture, accentuates the film's gut-wrenching tone. A married couple of 15 years has lost their magic. More than that, they've lost the feel of one another. Albert (Rufus Sewell) is putting all of his energy into an interactive golf game that airport passengers can practice while Nancy (Maria Bello) spends her days attempting to connect with someone, anyone, online. While the structure of the film slowly unfolds, we are forced to figure out the whys and whens on our own. The cold blue settings, the silent snowy sadness, the frigid impending dread drifting from one scene to the next: it all traps you in this brutal way that makes you want to run out of the theater. In fact during the press screening, dozens of people were leaving and it was not it in a casual way.
The 96-minute Downloading Nancy is pure emotion. And through all of the self-effacing and self-infliction that the characters encounter, you care. You care immensely about these depressed disasters doing the best that they can. You experience their darkest moments and you feel what they cannot. In fact, you'll feel so much that you'll have to decide if you can stay and watch. This is not only the best film at Sundance this year, it provides insight into where you might be headed if you don't start fighting for yourself.