On The Big Screen Reviews

Sid & Nancy – 30th Anniversary Review

Musical pairings, drug fuelled antics, and destructive love wind around each other in a tornado of chaos. Two heroin struck lovers pulled together through the aching addiction to lust and madness.  A putrid festering of the flesh as the crave for a buzz and an escape, causes a fatal dance upon the tip of a needle, dripping with depravity and desperation. Two people whose collision ricocheted brutally across the years of their relationship, spiralling further into calamity and pain.

This is the stage that sets up the manic but entirely brilliant biopic Sid & Nancy.

Directed by Alex Cox and starring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb as the titular characters, the film revolves around the frenzied pair from meeting for the first time until their fateful end. As bassist for the Sex Pistols, Sid became notorious for his onstage antics and wild drug-addled behaviour. Nancy, a somewhat American groupie of the band, falls for Sid and the pair become catalysts for one another, feeding their insatiable drug and love habits. Though the world around them cannot match their ferociousness, they soon push away help and loved ones, even the band that made Sid’s name, to pursue their own selfish desires. Smacked out on heroin and any drug they can get a hold of, Sid & Nancy is a tale of woe.

Sid & Nancy is an uncomfortable yet enthralling cult film that sees established performer Oldman capture the essence of Sid Vicious and the anarchy within him. Made in the late eighties, Cox developed a story as honestly as he could, unafraid to show a musician and his wife in the mess of their love. The harshness involved will catastrophically course through you and make you uncomfortable but herein lies the brilliance: The movie is going to make you as uncomfortable as possible by being unafraid to show the devastation and wantonness of a couple unravelling in the worst way because of their love.  The scummy stains of drug abuse permeates the cinematography and scene set-up as it’s hard viewing, especially as the pair take to self-harm to feed their addiction to kicks.

Yet Cox is sure to not batter us with images and cause an ebb of humanity and dreamlike fantasies to run through, allowing us to be viscerally sympathetic to the couple whilst also warned of their behaviour.

Gary Oldman was destined to become England’s greatest performer even at a young age and the splices of his iconic talent flow through the veins of his Sid. The gurning, extravagant, and beastly musician screams with beats of a soul that gives into temptation on a regular basis. Oldman evocatively portrays this. Alongside him the screeching and desperate Webb clings to Sid and their addiction with a complex (and, a lot of the times, annoying, ) emotional outcry. Together they illuminate the screening more colourful than Johnny Rotten’s orange hair.

Now thirty years later, Sid & Nancy stands a testament to the talent involved as well as the nefarious two, portraying the infamous legends in all their shit and glory. The squirming reaction you have to this punk-rock biopic echoes later films such as Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream but was made worse for all the advantages Sid had with the Sex Pistols. A warning screams throughout the film as shrill as Webb’s wailings – there is love in destruction and there is destruction in love.


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