The best experience about watching movies is when you end up getting what you did not pay for, as if suddenly you were treated like a VIP, given all the benefits, and luxurious hospitality. Simply said, the movie cared about the viewer’s time more than it cared for itself. That’s what we need from any piece we watch. Indeed, sometimes it does not work quite the way the writer/director or actors expect from us. But with “All About Nina”, it was a whole different case, more complicated, subtle and disturbing. Because it’s about telling a truth that might set one free, but not everyone else. Yet it’s so damn real and painful.
“All About Nina” follows the titular character who’s a successful stand-up comedian but a very difficult person to deal with. Her provocative and funny language on stage may appear wicked or unpleasant, but if you pay close attention to what she has to say, it is much more than that just blunt laughter. While her career is about to take off, her personal life keeps having hard landings. She not only goes against personal life, but against stable relationships as well until she meets Rafe (Common), an L.A. man who is everything but not who she always thought a man is.
There’s no better title for the movie than “All About Nina”. Her jokes on stage, or her abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Joe, who thinks being a police officer gives him the right to show his power off duty as well, especially when he decides to hit Nina. That moment itself, or Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s subtle interpretation allows the viewer to go beyond every scene we are about to see from that moment on. We know that Nina is not that easy. She is ok to get into a quick relationship that won’t last longer than two hours if not less. But with Rafe, it’s a whole different experience she’s never had before.
Her past is what will puzzle the viewer right from the beginning. It is easy to figure out that Nina is a richly written character who prepares us through her stand-up comedy to reveal about herself more than she says. “Art is about to have an effect on others,” says Nina to Lake (Kate Del Castillo) who generously allowed Nina to stay at her apartment while she prepares for a big audition. Rafe, on the other hand, is like an open book. There was not a moment that we would think of him negatively. He has integrity, is respectful, is a true gentleman and looks like he admires Nina for who she is. But it is his simplicity and respect that shakes Nina to the core as she expected less from any man in her life.
Written and directed by Eva Vives, “All About Nina” is about every survivor of any kind of sexual abuse, whether it happened as a child or as an adult. Providing a powerful voice against abuse, Vives approaches the topic gently to ensure every line delivered by Nina will knock everyone out. The last twenty minutes are the most definitive. While it takes a reasonable time to develop the story to bring a logical conclusion, what you will be left to hear is quite disturbing, but the true reality of why women can’t simply open up about their current or past abuse or decide to wait for years for the right moment to arrive.
As for the performance, Mary Elizabeth Winstead owns the entire movie, every scene, every angle and nails it in the best way possible. Nina’s most important show towards the end is powerful yet real and impactful. As it shapes the real world we live in, it goes way beyond that by showing the human soul, its long-lasting struggle, trauma and how that may impact the adult life. But Vives’ movie is not only about trauma or sexual abuse, it’s a love story as well between two different individuals, their view of life or where they want to end up. Thanks to Common’s very caring approach to Rafe and his way of portraying him. The message he sends is equally important – not all men are abusive. It’s just getting increasingly difficult to find one. But when it happens, the result will be close to what happens to Nina, who finds herself in complete disbelief of him being such a prince charming. But the more we learn about her, the more we understand why she is so defensive about her life.
In the end, there’s a lot to take away from Vives’ important piece. However, one thing becomes obvious – talking about pain is almost like playing with an open wound that can get infected easily. But as it usually happens with every injury, no matter how bad it is, it must be treated if we don’t want it to get worse. Because nobody wants the best part of life to get amputated or heartlessly extracted because of fear or painful treatment. Easier said than done, but “All About Nina” knows how to deliver the point that when one step forward where it feels like a giant move. It is a matter of bringing justice or any level of crime that should not have a statute of limitation.