True North | Canadian Images
Anne Émond (Nuit #1) returns to VIFF with the startling and sensual true story of Nelly Arcan (born Isabelle Fortier), a young escort-turned-award-winning writer whose lurid life, skilfully penned accounts of her exploits and tragic death became a cause célèbre in Quebec. Arcan’s first novel Putain (Whore) caused a sensation and enjoyed immediate critical and media success. It contained enough similarities between the prostitute protagonist Cynthia and Arcan’s own experience as a professional sex worker to press the media’s buttons, making for instant celebrity in the Québec pantheon. Mylène MacKay delivers a memorable and steamy performance in the title role of Nelly, or, more precisely, the four faces of Nelly. There’s Nelly, the tell-all writer; Amy, the rapturous lover; Cynthia, the top-shelf whore; and Marilyn, the sparkling "glitterata."
Primarily a stage actress, MacKay (Endorphine) embodies all the strengths and vulnerabilities of the shooting star that was Nelly. Not every shooting star is to wish upon—Arcan died by her own hand in 2009 at the age of 36, after a lifelong fascination with, and several attempts at, suicide. Émond’s creative depiction of this troubled independent soul and the men and women that shaped her makes for a strong feminist statement and a powerful human one.
"Émond’s film is an empathetic snapshot of a female artist coming up against her demons. What’s more, Nelly vibrates with an animating sadness that might just lead you back to the writings of Arcan to meet the woman for yourself."—Julia Cooper, Globe and Mail