Review by Sean Boelman
Serendipity, directed by artist-turned-filmmaker Prune Nourry, is a personal and captivating look at a difficult period in Nourry’s life. Quite possibly one of the best documentaries of the year so far, this film delivers as both an evaluation of what it means to be an artist and what it means to be human.
The movie follows Nourry after she receives a breast cancer diagnosis, expressing her feelings through her art dealing with femininity and female fertility. Although plenty of documentaries have dealt with diseases and how they affect artists, none has been as effective and intimate as this, largely because the film is, intrinsically, a work of Nourry’s art.
Over the course of the movie, viewers will come to admire Nourry, not only for her artistic bravery and ingenuity, but also for the courage and perseverance she shows despite the major obstacle which she is facing. Viewers who have a personal connection to breast cancer, whether themselves or a loved one, will likely find themselves moved by Nourry’s experiences and how well she was able to express her emotions regarding them.
The film also offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Nourry’s art. The two storylines (her work and her experiences with cancer) often intersect, but they also work well on their own. Sequences depicting the preparations that Nourry makes for her various multimedia exhibitions are enchanting and wonderfully-made.
Nourry’s statements about femininity and female empowerment are definitely intriguing and thought-provoking. The movie allows some very interesting insight into Nourry’s creative process and what she wants to say with her work. Since Nourry directed the film herself, she is able to effectively guide the audience to her message in this way.
If anything, there is enough story in this movie for it to have been much longer. Clocking in at under an hour and fifteen minutes, this film breezes by, particularly if one is able to connect with the subject and her story. Certain sequences could have spared to be expanded, but the movie is nonetheless very impressive given that Nourry is not a filmmaker first.
As one would expect, the film is very accomplished on a visual level. Likely due to her work as a visual artist, Nourry has a keen eye for composition, and much of the movie is absolutely beautiful to look at. Even the medical shots in the film feel elegant and beautiful. Additionally, the movie’s use of music is quite unique, adding to the overall style and mood of the piece.
Both an art documentary and a cancer documentary, Serendipity bites off a whole lot to chew, but somehow, it manages to be a revelatory experience. Equal parts beautiful and moving, this will likely go down as one of 2019’s most underseen films.
Serendipity is now playing in theaters.