Not all films are meant to be mindless entertainment. Some filmmakers transcend the trappings of Hollywood and decide that, instead of making a movie like Transformers, they are going to make something that explores the human condition, hopefully without judgement, in order to shed light on the way we act and react to our world, and how we can improve the way we do both of those things. Johan Renck has done exactly that with his feature film Downloading Nancy, which explores the life of a person who's very essence has been shattered from a young age, and how her needs and wants effect those around her.
Maria Bello, in what may be one of her best roles (although it's neck and neck with her role in A History of Violence), plays the title role of Nancy, a woman who was heavily abused as a child, and because of that abuse, has been twisted in such a way that abuse is the only way she knows how to feel love. Her husband, Albert (played by Rufus Sewell), can not understand her needs, and refuses to give into her constant bating. He almost has to steel himself against her, so as not to give into the physical abuse she craves so much. By the time the audience joins the story, Nancy has met someone online, a man named Louis (played to stunning perfection by Jason Patric), whom she has contracted to meet her in a far away town, abuse her, and, eventually, kill her. The film follows Nancy, her run-ins with her husband and her counselor, her self-destruction, her death, and Louis's confrontations with Albert.
Renck gives the film an ominous cleanliness, and a blue tone, that makes you feel as though you are in a sterile, hospital like environment the whole time. His production design is painfully middle American, and you can almost sympathize with Nancy for putting up with such a drab existence for such a long time. Maria Bello brings this character to life in such a way that, I, as an audience member, felt so much empathy for her, that even though I would never want anyone to kill themselves, I felt like I just wanted her to have what she wanted so badly - A way out. Rufus Sewell is both reserved and explosive in his role, balancing the two in a high wire act that makes me believe this is a guy who has more talent than he, often times, lets on, and Jason Patric is devastating as a man who grows to love Nancy so much that he will make the ultimate sacrifice to give her what she wants.
I really liked this film. It seemed to be heavily panned when it was doing the festival circuit, and barely saw any kind of release, but this is just one of those films. It's not for everyone. You have to be okay with being taken places that you may not want to go too, or shown things you may not want to see or agree with if your going to get anything out of it.