An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty (12A)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/02/2014

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Writer-director-actor Terence Nance's feature debut is a stylistically bold, original and deeply introspective drama-slash documentary that puts an intriguing arthouse spin on the standard romcom template.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Terence Nance, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is part documentary (or is it?) and part romantic drama, in which African-American filmmaker Terence (Nance playing himself) obsesses over his complicated relationship with the woman he loves (Namik Minter). However, the film takes an unusual form: narrated by an unseen, baritone voiceover, a short film called How Would U Feel? (that Nance completed and screened for the public in 2011) is frequently interrupted by a different, more introspective film (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty), with onscreen sounds and graphics making it feel as if the two films are constantly being swapped over, like VHS tapes in a video recorder.

The first film details a single incident, in which Nance comes home expecting Namik to come round for the evening, but he misses her call and when he calls back, she says she's no longer coming over; the incident then replays multiple times, with more context being added each time (such as the fact that she's only recently told him she's sort of seeing someone else), but always ending with the question "How would you feel?" Then the second film takes a much broader, but deeply introspective look at Nance's relationship history, personality (flaws and all), upbringing, socio-economic situation and several different factors relating to his relationship status.

The Good
Nance's approach is bold and original throughout, particularly in the second film, which uses brightly coloured, beautifully designed animated sequences (courtesy of several different artists), stop-motion, home movies, footage from the previous short, onscreen text (with bits scribbled out) and eventually a filmed question and answer session with Namik herself, in which she's asked for her reaction to Nance making the original short about her without her knowledge (and then screening it to the public).

The Great
The film is occasionally bewildering, asking you to absorb a lot of information at once (the voiceover provides the majority of the dialogue and is present for most of the film), but the overall effect is surprisingly riveting and you find yourself willing Terence and Namik to make it work, even if you can't help sympathising with her on a number of issues. The film also makes a number of thought-provoking points about various methods of communication - whether it's the way a text message can be misinterpreted (and the agony of waiting for someone to reply to an important text) or the simple effectiveness of an old-fashioned love letter.

Worth seeing?
Despite taking self-indulgence to ridiculous levels, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is a strikingly original debut that marks writer-director Nance out as a future talent to watch. Recommended.

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Content updated: 22/11/2017 20:27

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