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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 05.22.13] thriller drama

When faced with life altering decisions, we have a tendency to react in two ways; the adventurous are likely to jump in with both feet and deal with the consequences as they come while the more cautious will consider every angle before taking a step. But life is never that black and white and neither are people and once in a while the indecisive comes along and rather than make choices, they let themselves be taken along. Nancy, Please's Paul is one of the indecisive ones.

A brilliant PhD candidate at Yale, Paul is making some big changes in his personal and professional life. He's just taken the big leap and moved in with his girlfriend while on the professional front he's being prodded to submit some work on his dissertation, the project that will guide his professional future. He's doing badly at both. He's freaking out and rather than taking a step back and re-evaluating the situation, he obsesses and when it appears that he left his copy of "Little Dorrit" at his old apartment, the subject of his dissertation, he becomes obsessed with getting it back.

Yes, Paul loses his shit over a book.

What begins as an odd but understandable need to reclaim his book from the ex-roommate who appears to be holding it hostage, soon takes a turn for the dark. The very dark. At first, with the enabling support of his best friend and his girlfriend, Paul makes numerous attempts to salvage the book by regular means but as Paul's demands escalate to threats, Nancy retreats further away which only pushes Paul down an even darker path. He's clearly unstable and we begin to question just how far he'll go to get back his bloody book.

On paper Nancy, Please sounds like a spin on the classic crazy roommate story (I had images of Single White Female with a twist) but it's actually a far more serious and sinister tale of one man's descent into psychosis. It's clear from early on that Paul's problem isn't the book itself and that he's simply fixating on the object as a way to deal with whatever demons are plaguing him, the largest of which is his apparent loss of control over his life. He's moved in with his girlfriend out of some dated sense of duty and fear of losing her while on the academic front, he's facing an uphill battle to live up to the expectations of his advisor. He feels small and out of control and there's a real sense that if he can just handle this one thing, if he can just confront Nancy and get his book back, life will suddenly fix itself. We know it's not that simple but to Paul, that obsession is the only thing that keeps him going.

Andrew Semans' feature film debut is fantastic, a vivid and scary account of one man's decline into crazy and an observation of how easy it is to lose control of one's life. Semans and co-writer Will Heinrich have an excellent handle on their story and they handle the weighty subject matter with care and a surprising bit of comedy. Paul's antics are raised in such small increments that when the final confrontation occurs, I couldn't quite believe what he was doing but in the same breath, I never doubted that Paul would be capable of it. Will Rogers, an actor with a number of one-of TV appearances and a small role in The Bay (review), deserves quite a bit of credit as well; he's fantastic in a role that asks him to teeter totter between soft spoken nice guy and paranoid psycho and he brings a great every man air to the role which only makes the entire thing scarier.

Nancy, Please begins a limited engagement at the reRun Theater in Brooklyn on May 24.

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