Sid & Nancy (1986)
Directed by: Alex Cox
Written by: Abbe Wool, Alex Cox
Starring: Andrew Schofield, Anne Lambton, Chloe Webb, David Hayman, Gary Oldman, Kathy Burke, Mark Monero, Sara Sugarman, Tony London
SID & NANCY (1986)
Directed by Alex Cox
Available on Blu-Ray
Based on true events, SID & NANCY documents the turbulent relationship between Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, the latter of whom was found murdered in a hotel room in New York on 12th October 1978. Starring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, making their feature film debut as Sid and Nancy respectively, the movie details what occurred between 1977 and 1978 whilst also taking on a bit of artistic licence on the true life events.
SID & NANCY opens up with the aftermath of Nancy’s death at the Chelsea Hotel with a shellshocked Sid brought into the police station for questioning. After being asked how he knows Nancy, the film transports us back to the day they first met, where Sid and fellow Sex Pistol, vocalist John Lydon, visit their dominatrix friend Linda who Nancy Spungen, an American groupie and junkie, is staying with.
Sliding her way into Sid’s affections and curiosity, Nancy appears to be a troubled young woman who’s consumed by her mental battles (the real Nancy was diagnosed with schizophrenia) and heroin addiction, a toxic combination that swallows her up and dooms those who get too close to her. Sid’s romantic involvement with Nancy sees him too get hooked on heroin and absorbed by her bleak outlook on life as she pleads with him to make a death pact with her. The pair become inseparable and his drug-fuelled lifestyle with Nancy begins to affect his musical performances and rapport with his fellow members of the Sex Pistols who ultimately have no choice but to drop him from the band.
After being kicked out of the Sex Pistols, Sid and Nancy head to New York, where Nancy becomes his agent and books gigs for him with his new live band, with Sid taking vocal duty instead of bass. When not struggling through gigs, the pair are holed up in a room together at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, shooting up heroin and doing other drugs; a lifestyle that’s heading nowhere fast. It seems Sid’s aware of this and is determined to ultimately get clean of heroin though Nancy has other ideas as she feels life just isn’t worth living anymore…
With Sid Vicious the lead suspect in her death but unable to recollect the night’s events due to drug taking, it’s not clear whether Sid was to blame or not though this movie does explicitly indicate what it reckons happened between the two that night. Reading up on the real life events, there’s mention of a party taking place and rumours of a third party being responsible for her death, but to this day there doesn’t seem to be an exact answer as to who stabbed her. With Sid dying from a drug overdose months later at the age of 21, it’s a tragic ending for both of them.
As a movie, SID & NANCY has a wonderful aesthetic to it that feels as though it captured the time and space of the late 1970’s and the era of the punk movement. Andrew Schofield, whilst perhaps not looking too much like Johnny Rotten physically, does well to mimic the voice and phrasing of the Pistols’ frontman. Perry Benson and Tony London have a bit less screen time as drummer Paul Cook and guitarist Steve Jones whilst managing the group is David Hayman as Malcolm McLaren.
Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb are terrific as the doomed lovers. Webb’s portrayal of Nancy as the drug-dependent, ranty obsessive seems to reflect stories about the real life Nancy, especially knowing she had mental health problems to boot, though her insufferable presence becomes a melting pot with Sid’s man-child sensibilities and yearning to live up to the punk rock image. Though on the surface Nancy is portrayed as the nagging bird on Sid’s arm who’s leading him astray, Sid himself is no angel. Not averse from slapping Nancy around a bit and enjoying cutting himself with razor blades and having an obsession with knives, he reveals a darker side to his personality that, when combined with that of Nancy’s, spells disaster for the lovestruck pair. Ultimately, it’s the drugs that seem to have them both in a vice grip, destroying their lives and everything they hold dear as they lose touch of reality.
SID & NANCY is a gritty drama that does nothing to glamorise the situation, thankfully, and shows the sorry state of how the pair ended up. It’s quite sad to see how destructive their lives became and though it’s clear they adored one another, their union only seems to have intensified the situation.
Alex Cox and Abbe Wool’s screenplay is like a raw and grungy version of Romeo and Juliet of the punk rock generation. Unfortunately, the story of SID & NANCY is no less a tragedy.
The Studiocanal Blu-Ray contains three extras:
An interview with director Alex Cox (23 mins) – Alex talks about writing the script with Abbe Wool after hearing a film was being touted with Rupert Everett and Madonna in the lead roles. As punk fans and disturbed by this idea, they thought they’d write their own film to try and stop the proposed one in its tracks. Cox also discusses casting for the movie and making the film.
An interview with Don Letts (10 mins) – Videographer, DJ and former Acme Attractions shop manager Don Letts discusses life in the 70s, the Sex Pistols and the punk rock movement.
An interview with cinematographer Roger Deakins (10 mins)