Nelly, written and directed by Anne Émond, is an erratic film that attempts to tell of the multiplicities within the personality of a young woman, but sets out to do too much. While the actors do as much as they can to support the plot and illustrate the many themes this film tries to tackle, the plot and writing fall short, leaving viewers confused at best. (HRM: 2/5)
Nelly appears to follow a few different plot lines, although even after watching it I still cannot count them. The unclear stories bounce from the perspective of a young woman whose relationship with her lover is dependent on a cocaine addiction, to those of a successful author, a young middle schooler going through her sexual awakening, and a prostitute thriving in the attention she receives as a result of her job. Each of these characters is played by Mylène Mackay (except for the teenage version of one of her characters), making it difficult to determine which story
belongs to which character, and I still do not have a cohesive understanding of the plots and how they fit together.
About 30 minutes from the end of the film I thought I got it. It was, although not clear, decipherable that these characters were different versions of one woman, one big study of a single character’s personality. But then something happens (no spoilers!) that shattered anything I thought I knew about this movie, and nothing after to redeem the story. The plot felt equally empty and superfluous, and I believe that its failure was in trying to do too much rather than too little. The truth of the woman’s story and personality got lost in the jumble of scenes. While I support what I still think this film was trying to portray- the multiplicities within a young woman- in my opinion it failed to communicate this idea on a level that resonated with me.
The information provided to the viewer within this movie fails to provide the viewer with enough information to understand the world or what is happening in it. Instead, it favors deep narration that ends up being more awkward than meaningful. Philosophical quotes are used sporadically in place of connections and developments between the plot lines. Instead of making me think of life and human nature, I instead was left trying to figure out where the quote came from, as there was a huge lack of character motivation in saying these things and people’s actions were unable to validate these musings.
The one thing in this movie that worked out was the casting of Mylène Mackay in the leading role(s). She was able to embody each character in a distinctly separate, yet whole, way, which was what kept me holding onto hope for Nelly, despite everything else. It was through her acting that any deeper meaning within the plot is communicated, and for me this movie was most interesting as a display of her talent and ability to take on a wide role of characters.
I wanted to like this movie, I really did. But there was nothing special about its production or creation, and not even the exceptional acting could save it from the ineffective plot. However, I fully support Anne Émond’s efforts to create a multidimensional and relevant female character and see potential in the manner with which she made this film. While I don’t recommend seeing Nelly, I hope to see another one of her films in theaters soon.