Award-winning filmmaker Anne Émond (Nuit #1, Les êtres chers) returns to the Festival with this creatively imagined biopic of controversial Quebec writer Nelly Arcan, who scandalized the French literary world with her semi-autobiographical novel based on her experiences as a sex worker.
Nelly Arcan (born Isabelle Fortier) published her first novel Putain (Whore) in 2001, and it caused a sensation in the French literary world. Detailing the life of a prostitute named Cynthia, the story was based on Arcan's own experience as a sex worker. But with the success of her first book came crushing anxieties — the need to control her own image, the perpetual desire for validation — all of which found their way into her work. Mirroring in many ways her own life and death, her subsequent books tackled themes such as gender, power, the commodification of female beauty, loneliness, and suicide.
Émond writes the onscreen Nelly as a composite not just of Arcan's many personas, but of her fictional characters as well. This is brought to life in an astounding, kaleidoscopic performance by Mylène Mackay (a TIFF 2016 Rising Star), giving us the intoxicating feeling that we are seeing all sides of a talented, broken, beautiful, and haunted woman.
As the film moves from one striking passage of her oeuvre to the next, and as she moves from man to man, from elating highs to desperate lows, we are immersed in the lush and punishing world of Nelly Arcan.