Nicky (2012) – By Cary Conley

The mind is a wonderful creation, and imagination is one of its greatest gifts. But in some cases, the imagination can be torturous. In the case of Nicky, our unnamed protagonist (simply called The Narrator in the credits) has been tortured for many years by his own imagination. Saying goodbye to his baby brother, Nicky, on his wedding day, The Narrator had no idea it would be the last time he would ever see his little brother, for just a few months later Nicky was kidnapped and disappeared without a trace. Since that time, The Narrator has never given up looking for little Nicky, hoping to discover what happened and who was responsible for his death. He has been utterly consumed with his search, even through the course of two marriages, neither of which worked out. And now, with the help of an underground network, The Narrator has discovered who stole his little brother all those years ago. Now it is his turn to put the wheels into motion as he seeks vengeance for his little brother.

As a parent I cannot think of a single thing worse than the death or disappearance of a child. Each time a child is lost and the details of the crime pour forth from the television, my heart breaks for the child and their family. I often wonder what would be worse: knowing the details of what happened after the disappearance of the child, or not knowing anything at all. As horrific as some details may be, not knowing allows the imagination to run wild–certain torture for any parent of a missing child. This is the misery our Narrator goes through as he first has no idea what happened to Nicky, then learns the details of what happened after the kidnapping. Along with this, add the burden of guilt The Narrator feels at not being there to protect his little brother, and it is no wonder his life has been consumed with seeking vengeance for Nicky.

Based upon an original short story by Ken Flott, who also wrote the screenplay and stars as The Narrator, Nicky is a haunting 30-minute short film. As a writer, Flott tackles some tough questions about child exploitation as well as the concept of revenge versus forgiveness. In situations like these, there is never a simple answer. While some would seek vengeance, as does The Narrator, others would argue that forgiveness is the only answer. In this particular instance, the protagonist enacts his revenge which allows him some peace of mind. It is an imperfect solution to a very complicated problem, and one that opens itself to a great deal of analysis from both sides of the discussion. The reality is that people are different and some can forgive more easily than others. By inserting guilt into the equation, Flott makes the argument even more difficult.

Director Dom Portalla also makes some classy choices with the material. Instead of detailing the specifics of the crime that occurred against Nicky, Portalla only allows a brief hint of what might have happened to be exposed as the story unfolds. Portalla avoids the pitfall of using the prurient details, which might be a total turn-off for the audience, instead opting to allow the imagination to fill in those details. Later, as The Narrator captures the kidnappers and exacts his revenge, Portalla again wisely chooses to merely hint at things to come, thus avoiding an Eli Roth Hostel-inspired ending. Once more, the viewer is allowed to fill in the blanks. These two crucial choices elevate the film and keep it from being a simple story of revenge, allowing the audience to address the tough questions being asked–questions no one ever wants to have to answer for real.

Production value is superb, as is the acting. Most actors have only small parts in this film short; Flott is the real star as The Narrator. Flott is excellent as he pours his heart out to his ex-wife about his fears, or as he yet again turns down the pretty office girl’s request for a date, instead opting to continue the search for his brother’s kidnappers.

In the end, Nicky asks many more questions than it answers, and the answers given will only satisfy a portion of the audience. Others will be faced with even more questions. The film is complicated, as is the situation represented in the film, but I found it a sensitive and tasteful production about an ugly truth that happens more often than we want to think about.

Nicky is making the festival circuit, so if you get a chance to see the film, it is recommended that you do so. Bonus: 10% of the fundraising money for the movie was donated to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), proving that these filmmakers put their money where their collective mouths are.