It all starts with the slash of a sword, as the menacing leader of the pink army swiftly cuts a path through the enemy. With a stomp of his foot, a huge crack opens up and swallows the evil bad guy and then... Wait? What was I writing? For those a little confused, thinking that this is a review of "Where Is Nancy" from writer, director Thiago Dadalt - you are in the right place. Although none of the above actually happens in this film it's a great way to instantly demonstrate dementia. Confusion, forgetting what you're doing, or doing something completely unrelated are all symptoms. But I suspect at this point, most people already know this. Most people understand Alzheimer's disease from a clinical, dictionary point of view - but only those ill, or with ill family members or loved ones will ever truly understand. But no matter how you look at it one thing is clear, there's nothing scarier than having your mind slowly drift away from you - even the quicker forms of the disease still allow enough time to know what's happening - until you simply doesn't anymore. What could be scarier?
"Where Is Nancy" allows us to follow along with the family and friends of Nancy Paulikas, a woman who simply vanished one afternoon during an outing. She literally was there, and then gone - and the search for her went on for years. Nancy was afflicted, and the good days got less and less until finally she simply wandered off, never to be seen again. The mystery of where Nancy went was finally solved, although nothing from where or what she did before has ever been cemented. But this story isn't totally about the sad outcome of Nancy's story. It's about the love and kindness from her family, friends, and even complete strangers. It's about shining a light on some deficiencies within the system when writing of the mentally ill - not just covering dementia, but all sorts of mental illnesses. It's about the triumphs Nancy's case has been directly or indirectly responsible for, including Project Lifesaver. Mostly however, this film is meant to educate as it also builds a sort of kinship with its viewers. And yes reader, it's all put together splendidly.
Anyone who watches documentaries is probably going to think one thought before any other. Something along the lines of, "I've seen countless shows on Alzheimer's, so why is this one any different?" The truth is that at its core, "Where Is Nancy" is essentially another movie on mental illness. One that visually, is an excellent one, but still one of many. Where Dadalt's film gets you is in the way it doesn't just educate, but gives you a story with characters you'll grow to really feel for - or with, as is the case here. This film also branches away from the main story, giving its viewers a few secondary stories as well. All of them ultimately relate and somewhat connect, but it's like watching a scripted drama unfold through numerous pathways. It's all very captivating and emotional...
.. and yet through all the side avenues "Where Is Nancy" never forgets what the film is about, and keeps bringing the main narrative back home. The search, the lives of those involved, the impact on strangers, and yes reader - the closure of the actual case file. There's really a lot of stuff going on in this film and one of the most surprising things is that it never felt bloated. I should also point out that I never felt a sense of information overload. It just all comes together excellently from a production perspective. Thiago Dadalt, Dru Miller, the friends and family, and the entire troupe has pulled together and offered up a really great film.
At the end of the day, what else is left to write? Do I personally recommend this film? Yes. Even to those who may not be into documentaries all that much? Again, yes. As a film "Where Is Nancy" definitely has some messages to deliver to the masses, but it's also just an entertaining picture. A solid four and a half stars.