Sundance 2012: An Oversimplification of Her Beauty review


Perhaps the most unconventional film in this year’s Sundance London programme, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012) plays out as director Terrence Nance’s experimental ode to the girl that got away. Combining a multitude of styles, this multifaceted, non-linear documentary is likely to divide audiences despite its obvious artistic flare. Essentially, Nance’s film is a self-reflective rumination on a haunting experience of unrequited love. Split into two intertwining segments, the documentary is both a short entitled ‘How Would you Feel?’ sporadically interrupted by a feature length called ‘An Oversimplification of Her Beauty’.

This rich tapestry of artistic styles is carelessly thrust at the screen like a desperate cry for appreciation, whilst also feeling like an aspirational clothing advert for young trendy New Yorkers. Repetitive, lacking in depth and with no real character development other than the crippling effects of heartache on its director, the film is far too personal and subjective for a wider audience.

Whilst certain elements may ring true, the overall experience is akin to hearing the same tale of heartbreak over and over again. Behind this unconventional narrative lies the love story of a classic Hollywood couple – two perfectly matched individuals that fail to consummate their affections. However, even the film’s ethereal voiceovers apparently aren’t enough to express Nance’s numerous conflicting emotions, so he turns to a myriad of different artistic devices including but not limited to hand drawn animation, stop motion claymation and amateur videos of varying quality. These breathtakingly beautiful vignettes, whilst aesthetically pleasing, quickly blur into one incoherent mess of confused emotions and amplified self-pity.

As a short experimental film or as an art installation piece, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty would work perfectly as a tangible portrait of heartache but as a feature length movie it rapidly becomes an incredibly exhausting experience. It’s hard to criticise a film loaded with such intense passion and creativity, yet in failing to connect to its audience it culminates in little more than 90 minutes of animated graffiti and notebook doodling.

An endless barrage of self-examination which quickly becomes tedious, Nance’s film, despite it’s hypnotic visuals, is a difficult movie to become immersed in. In real life, to truly fall in love with someone (or in this case something) there has to be more than just superficial beauty – something An Oversimplification of Her Beauty would be wise to remember.

For more Sundance London 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble