The Nature of Nicholas (2002)

The Nature of Nicholas DVD coverA while ago, I was told that this was a very “weird” film. When my friend said it was “weird”,  I was expecting more along the lines of visual abstraction. This was not the case. This film takes “weird” to a whole new realm.

The acting is a bit average throughout, mostly from the support roles. I thought Jeff Sutton as Nicholas was very good as the lead. It’s a shame he didn’t go on to do much after that.

I thought the film started really strongly in terms of story and was very clear and very easy to relate to. The characters had clear wants and clear obstacles, which was good. After the kiss though, I have to admit that I was a little thrown by the zombie. It sort of just pops up out of nothing and turns into a whole new film. As the film progressed, though, I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Here’s how I see it:

Zombie Bobby represents Bobby’s feeling towards Nicholas (I think Bobby felt the same way for Nicholas). He knows those feelings are there, but he wants to kill them.  Hence, the human Bobby is constantly nagging at Nicholas to let it die.

Obviously, everything that we see after the kiss is in Nicholas’ mind. It is his constant struggle to deal with the feelings of being gay and the social implications of these feelings, as well as it being taboo within society.  Although it’s not entirely clear, the film could possibly be set the 50’s, considering the father’s uniform and the noises of the plane sound as if they are from WWII, as well as the fashion of the kids.  If so, those feelings would be even more taboo if that is the era in which the film takes place.

When Nicholas begins to turn into a zombie, that represents Nicholas giving in to these ideas of it being a taboo. It’s possibly that, in reality, his mother found him out and pumped into his mind that it was wrong. Either way, by this stage Nicholas has decided to let that side of him die.

The Nature of Nicholas fieldsIf this interpretation is accurate, which I believe it is, then the ending is very morbid, but also very true, especially considering he is entering junior high. High School would be one of the most tortuous places to anyone who is different. So it is understandable that he would not want to be seen as someone who is gay. I think the real beginning of this turn around is at the picnic scene, where he speaks to Roy about the girl who likes him. It’s almost like he is accepting that because he has to.

Now the father representation is the one that I am a little confused about. The fact that he is playing people as puppets could represent the fact that his father was an outright authorative figure in the family and completely conservative. It could represent the fact that if his father knew who he was, then he would be disgraced. This is why he is part of the imagination, the omnipresent father that always looms over the son, even after death. Considering we know absolutely nothing about the father, or the relationship of the father to Nicholas, this is very possible. He may have still liked his father, but he knows that his father would never approve of his feelings, which is why his father covers the zombie Nicholas in that abstract house at the end of the film. The house represents the suppression of feelings for Nicholas.

The Nature of Nicholas 2002

It is an interesting little film that could have a  number of interpretations. Although the ending is a sad and morbid one, I think it still represents the theme that you should always be true to yourself, no matter what society (or anybody in it) says.

I can’t say I thought it was an amazing film, because it is not. Critically, I have to say that it does seem somewhat jumbled and lost in it’s story. The bouncing around between reality and surrealism could come off as very confusing and the message could be misconstrued. However, I think after the kiss we have moved into the realm of surrealism and we do not leave that realm for the rest of the film (i.e. Nicholas’ psyche).

Jeff SuttonI could relate to this film more than most people, though, going through something very, very similar.  I had a friendship exactly like this when I was around the same age. This is where I found the heart in the film. Nicholas reminded me so much of myself, especially his awkwardness at the party.

I can say that going through these feelings at that age is somewhat of a surreal and abstract experience, which is why I think they chose to tell their story in this manner. Your mind literally goes insane thinking about who you are at that age, so it is understandable why they took this approach.

Overall, a film that hit very close to home for me, and one that I think was told in a very unorthodox manner.  But I think it worked for me. I didn’t fall in love with the film per se, but I really understood the story and the characters. In saying that, though, I think a lot of people who see this film will not understand the underlying subtext or the direction of the characters, and I think that is understandable in this particular case.

Rating: 7.5/10

PhoenixEast’s Rating System:

<5 Bad/Fail
5 Borderline Pass/Poor
6-6.5 Average
7-7.5 Good
8-8.5 Great
9-9.5 Amazing
10 Masterpiece

 

The Nature of Nicholas at IMDB

 

The Nature of Nicholas Trailer

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I just found these comments about this great Canadian film, one of my favorites, and wanted to add my own thoughts. I don’t think the film is surrealist–quite the contrary–nor do I think the second half takes place in Nicholas’ mind. The whole film is rather a grim allegory about the suppression of homosexuality in North American society. I think the zombies represent gay desires which, the author hints, are present in everybody. As soon as they appear, however, society turns them into zombies and then does its best to kill them off. Nicholas tries to hold on to his friend’s love for him, even when it’s rotted and turned green, but his friend’s “healthy” straight self steals the zombie and gleefully carries it off. Once Nicholas realizes that he’s gay he can only turn into a zombie himself. Of course these repressed zombies can’t really die. At best they can be hidden away in dismal mausoleums where they tremble under their blankets. Meanwhile their respectable straight selves (as in Nicholas’ case) run off with socially acceptable girlfriends and go on to live miserable, plastic lives in the “real” world. This is not a happy movie.

  2. I just recently watched “The Nature of Nicholas” for the second time. In both viewings I was blown away by Jeff Sutton’s performance as Nicholas. I thought he was awesome. And if it’s not inappropriate, I think he was very cute too. I really liked the movie up to the kiss scene. After that I had trouble trying to figure out what the movie was trying to say. It did make more sense to me the second time, but again it was confusing. I read your interpretation of the film and it was a little different than mine although we were both on the same track. I did not understand the ending however. Personally, I would have enjoyed the movie more if it had been a straightforward film that dealt with the boys’ feelings after the kiss took place. I don’t like having to guess about how someone is feeling in a particular situation. I wish someone would make a movie like this one only without the surrealism. Maybe someone has and I just don’t know about it. Either way, I loved the movie only for Jeff Sutton’s amazing performance. Otherwise I think it is a less-than-average movie.

  3. Glad you re-watched it SkyKid. It seems you enjoyed it a little more this time.

    I agree that the second half is very slow paced. The progession of story and character is very small as well which is why I think it feels slow paced. Not a great deal happens in that second half.

    I agree when you say that Jeff Sutton’s performance feels sincere. I think that is the best way to put it. It’s not the best performance, and there are some times where his dialgoue feels forced, I do think that his perforamnce was very sincere, and I was able to connect with him on an emotional level.

    Surrealist films aren’t for everyone. I find the challenge of decoding them very intriguing, and I love trying to find the message within them. As always though, it all comes down to personal taste.

    I wouldn’t suggest watching Mulholland Drive, or any other David Lynch film for that matter. ;)

  4. I saw The Nature of Nicolas in 2008. Back then the film left me a bit confused as evident from the review I once wrote : https://www.theskykid.com/movies/the-nature-of-nicholas/ .

    Several people left very elaborate comments on that review and having read the new publication of PhoenixEast I could not resist watching the film again. While I agree that the character of Nicolas is portrayed in a manner that evokes thoughts of one`s own childhood ( and I would argue that this is so regardless if one is a girl or a boy and likes a girl or a boy at that age )I was only engaged in the first half of the film. Having read all those comments and the reviews I now see what might have been the meaning of the surrealistic scenes – and although I find those views extremely intriguing I would have not reached to them on my own.

    I again felt that the pace of the film was extremely slow in the second half – but I now appreciate more the acting of Jeff Sutton as Nicolas. His role is challenging – to say at least and despite that his acting feels really sincere. Since I saw nature of Nicolas I have seen other Surrealistic films such as Soft like me ( by the same director ) and Nickel Children – both short films and both sharing excellent photography and a challenging storyline. I was not found of either of them which may just mean that I am not found of surrealistic films n general.

    I would argue that once one reads a review such of the one written by PhoenixEast re-watching with the new found understanding ( even if its just one person`s interpretation of the story ) is an intriguing experience ( even if to be completely honest I don`t plan of re-watching the film for a third time ).

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