Film Review: All About Nina


by Diana Matthews

When I sat down in the theatre to watch All About Nina, I was feeling a lot of resistance.

It was the end of an incredibly heavy week. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had testified in front of the Senate against Brett Kavanaugh, accusing him of sexual assault. And only a few short hours before the screening, the Senate voted to delay for a week the hearing that is expected to confirm Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.

As I settled into my seat, I was emotionally maxed out - tired of processing, reacting, and being inundated with endless posts about it on social media. I felt like my boundaries were in a pile of dusty rubble and the stress, confusion, and anger was free to wash over me like a tsunami.

I didn’t know what to expect from the movie and wasn’t sure I had the bandwidth to take it in.  Even after it started, I lowered myself into Nina’s world with profound hesitation.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Nina Geld, a razor-sharp stand-up comedian who moves from New York to LA to escape her abusive boyfriend and realize her dream of having her own comedy show. She’s ambitious, opinionated, and talented, but suppressing a deeply traumatic secret from her past, namely, that she was raped for eight years by her father, beginning at the age of 12.

All About Nina was created by a survivor, about a survivor, for survivors. It was written and directed by Eva Vives, who based the film on her own personal experiences. It would be a triumph regardless, but taken in the context of the #MeToo Movement and now this past week with the hearings, All About Nina is a gift for women who are demanding to feel seen and heard.

As Nina pursues her big break, the trauma of her past comes to a head in a particularly powerful scene when she goes onstage and shares the detail of her abuse. She’s met with shaking heads, shifting chairs, and avoidant eye contact - but she’s defiant. Tears stream down her cheeks as she stands behind the mic and under the spotlight, explicitly detailing her abuse.

It’s painful, powerful, and extremely cathartic. With the country just having witnessed Dr. Ford’s testimony, it felt full circle to now see Nina owning her story in a similar way. For too long, both women, and survivors around the world, have had to live in silence, harbouring a terrible secret every single day. To see them risk everything to share their truth felt utterly victorious.

After the movie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead participated in a Q&A and as she recalled that scene in particular, she began to cry. Wiping away tears, she talked about the pain and empathy she felt, and continues to feel for Vives, and how she can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to live with that trauma.

The sisterhood between Winstead and Vives was palpable. Across the country, the director was doing a Q&A in LA that night - it was as if there was a long thread connecting the two women together. That’s the power of sharing your truth and having a friend, a loved one, or even a community not only believe and support you, but uplift you to create something transformative in the healing process.

Afterwards, I felt like I had been to a therapy session. I was instilled with hope and inspired by the work women are doing to make the world a more supportive, inclusive, and safe place.

All About Nina is a triumphant and raw portrait of a woman struggling to reconcile her big dreams for the future with the profound injury of her past. Eva Vives’ thoughtful direction and authentic storytelling showcases the power of female-led filmmaking and the freedom that comes with breaking the silence of shame.

by DianaErin Bagwell