Neo Ned (2005)

Hi everybody! This is the first review so I felt I should probably do a little bit of an ‘intro’ thing. Basically, I’m making this my first review because, well… I watched it last night and I may as well go ahead and review it, right? You can read all about what this whole blog is about in the aptly named “About” section, but for now, I’ll just go ahead and start with the very first review on Chelsea Loves Movies!

neo ned
Neo Ned (2005)
 Dir. Van Fischer
 Writ. Tim Boughn
 Stars: Jeremy Renner, Gabrielle Union
 Rated R
 97 mins.
 Drama, Romance
 IMDB Rating: 7.2

“You remember you asked me to tell you a happy story? This is it. Me and you. We’re my happy story.”

There are movies you hear about and think ‘wow, that sounds interesting’, there are movies you hear about and think ‘wow, that sounds terrible’, and there are movies you hear about and think ‘wow, I’m not sure how to feel about that’.

This movie is a fourth kind of movie: the kind I had never heard of until one person casually mentioned ‘you know what is a good Jeremy Renner movie?’ and I had to go and google the title “Neo Ned” to see what they were even talking about. When I read the synopsis and saw the words “A young member of the Aryan Brotherhood meets a young black woman who thinks she’s the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler in the mental hospital” I knew I had to see this movie! Sure, that description may sound like it has to be sort of ridiculous, but I had a feeling from the fact it wasn’t a comedy that it had to be either really bad or really good.

It was the second. It was SO MUCH the second.

I’m a fan of both Jeremy Renner and Gabrielle Union, so I was excited to see them in a movie together. Both of them suffer the sad life of great actors who end up getting parts in crappy movies more often than they get good ones, so I knew going in that this movie could turn out to be terrible. And no, I won’t say it’s the most technically perfect film ever, that’s for sure. It has plenty of continuity errors (such as hair or costume not matching from one scene to the next) and there are some moments that the camera angles aren’t perfect, but for an independent film you can’t expect the technical perfection of a studio film, can you?

The important part is that this movie has two of the most moving characters I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s not often you see a character come to life on film in a way that is utterly real. Both Rachel and Ned have the beauty and flaws of well rounded, realistic characters that are only made so real when brought to life by the incredible acting of Gabrielle Union and Jeremy Renner. Rachel’s story is something many of us have witnessed or at least heard about in real life: a young woman who suffered a childhood trauma that continued to haunt her into her adult life and destroy her relationships with her family. She paints such an easy picture to relate to that it’s quite a contrast to Ned. Not many of us can say we know or know of anybody quite like Ned Nelson.

Ned is a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood who is in the mental institution because he and his Neo Nazi brethren committed a hate crime. His common outbursts of violence and his proud demeanor when he tells people about how he ‘stomped a nigger to death’ makes him initially seem like an utterly unlikeable person. But within a few minutes after we meet him, we find ourselves utterly charmed. The more we learn about his childhood and his parents, the more we understand his almost childlike behavior, such as his tantrums when he’s hurt or upset or the fact that in one scene he makes Rachel a drawing to give to her. The longer we know him and the more we see about the way he processes things, the more we the viewers learn to see the true Ned. In the end, we learn that Ned’s mother is absolutely right; Ned may not be perfect but he really does have a good heart.

The relationship between Ned and Rachel is so moving and beautiful. They both offer each other the kind of companion that they need for this point in their lives. They make each other happy and keep each other sane, really. While there are moments that are utterly heartbreaking both in the case of their characters and their relationship, the way their relationship runs its course is so natural and feels absolutely un-rushed and the opposite of abrupt. When the movie ends, you’re left feeling both happy and heartbroken because everyone ends up perfectly happy and that’s great even if you’re left feeling sad because that is Ned’s idea of ‘perfectly happy’.

I could go on and on about this movie, about the way I love it, about the fact that I totally believe this is the best of all of Jeremy Renner’s roles, and the fact that I want to watch this movie over and over. But I think the best way to end is to say that if you watch this movie, you will be left thinking about these two characters for the next several days and you will enjoy every moment that you’re left thinking about them.

My Rating: 7/10

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About J. Chelsea Williford

Student at Middle Georgia State University, writer, pop culture lover.
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