The opening of Downloading Nancy, which features on the soundtrack Nancy (Maria Bello) detailing to therapist Carol (Amy Brenneman) the liberation she expects to feel upon dying, compounded by cryptic exchanges with stranger Louis (Jason Patric) in a bus terminal, makes clear fairly quickly where Johan Renck’s misleadingly titled film is heading. Giving itself away so early on, Downloading Nancy—which shifts between past and present—faces a difficult task: to provide a description of the events leading up to Nancy’s willful demise observant enough to illuminate her extreme decision. Doing so would take a far steadier hand than the neophyte feature filmmaker’s, and the movie’s failure to meaningfully portray a woman’s online hiring of a man to facilitate her death isn’t mitigated by a concluding admission of the story’s real-life origins. Rather than lend legitimacy to the telling, the climactic announcement renders “Downloading Nancy” the more exploitative for its tiresome provocation.
Scenes from Nancy’s past include flashbacks delineating her relationship with Albert (Rufus Sewell), par for the course of which is an episode at a company party where he symbolically strands her on the dance floor while “When a Man Loves a Woman” plays on the speakers (signaling further the tackiness of their lives is the fact that Michael Bolton’s cover rather than the original is playing). Interspersed between such scenes illustrating the husband and wife’s rift are Nancy’s therapy sessions, a lazy narrative construction whereby screenwriters Pamela Cuming and Lee Ross can tell rather than show the effects of molestation Nancy suffered as a child. Not for a second does it seem plausible that the protagonist as constructed would willingly submit herself to therapy since she regularly dismisses Carol’s attempts as psychobabble and provokes the good doctor enough to get thrown out.
Click here to read the rest of Kristi Mitsuda’s review of Downloading Nancy.