The life and work of escort turned writer Nelly Arcan is brought to the screen in Nelly. Nelly Arcan, aka Isabelle Fortier (Mylène MacKay), becomes a literary sensation in both Quebec and France after the release of her semi-autobiographical novel “Whore” in 2001. As Nelly struggles with writing a follow-up, the line between fiction and reality is blurred as the lives of Nelly’s multiple personas are revisited.
Anne Émond (Our Loved Ones) brings the life of controversial writer Nelly Arcan to the screen in a biopic that frequently leaves you asking what is real and what is merely a fictional recreation. Nelly Arcan is merely the latest of the multitude of identities adopted by Isabelle Fortier. Each of these identities are portrayed in the film by actress Mylène MacKay sporting different hair colours and personalities, whether it be as a substance abusing brunette in a troubled relationship or as a successful blonde prostitute becoming disillusioned with the sex industry.
At the very least, it can be said that Nelly has a very unique structure for a biopic. However, it did take me most of the film’s running time to clue into the fact that the multiple narratives are of the fictionalized characters from Nelly Arcan’s novels, rather than director flashbacks to her past, even though the scenes can be viewed both ways. Nelly is probably not a film for everyone, but it does choose an original approach for tell the life story of this controversial figure.