Andrea Riseborough: 3 Career-Defining Performances

Andrea Riseborough has that stern star power that forces anyone who witnesses her in action to become utterly besieged by her screen presence. Riseborough continuously breaks the tradition of familiarity with nearly every role, with her dynamic approach to acting dismantling any chance of her being pigeonholed to one type of character. 

Her career spans back to 2006, making brief appearances in British indie films such as Venus (2006) and Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), paving the way for her future starring roles in Blockbuster hits. After taking the stage in theatre productions including “Inanov” (2008) and “The Pride” (2010), Riseborough began to form a name for herself on the silver screen, co-starring in Oblivion (2013) with the likes of Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, and featuring in the Oscar-winning Birdman (2014)

Upon receiving a string of awards, including multiple Best Supporting Actress titles, Riseborough took the mainstage and ushered in a succession of eclectic starring roles that would cement her place as a respected, cherished performer. 

In an ode to her being one of the most exciting actors currently working in the industry, here are Three Career-Defining Performances from Andrea Riseborough. 

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1. Nancy (2018)

Christiana Choe’s Nancy brings about a conflicting narrative that aims to question its viewer’s moral alignment. Such a taxing film needs a strong lead capable of transfixing emotional confusion, making Riseborough an elite candidate for the titular role of Nancy.

The film tackles the story of a lost thirty-something-year-old who uses her time to create bemusing identities and scamming schemes under various pseudonyms online. Whilst cultivating these hoaxes, she comes across a couple who have lost their daughter 30 years prior. With a dwindling mental state, Nancy becomes convinced that the unsuspecting couple are her biological parents. 

Riseborough puts on a tremendous display of hopelessness with a mystifying sense of ambiguity where it is never quite revealed how damaged Nancy’s emotional state is. Whilst the film alludes to absurd sensibilities where chaos thrives amidst the muted background, Riseborough paves the way with an unhinged, yet somehow composed attitude. We cannot help but want to believe in Nancy’s disturbed theories, no matter how far-fetched they may be.

This film relishes in its omnipresent mystery, with much of that aura becoming unleashed thanks to Riseborough’s beguiling hold over our grasp of reality.

2. Possessor (2020)

Possessor Review

Possessor seemed to dominate the world of cinema during its release in 2020, with audiences being both shocked and amused by the incredibly graphic and alluring world that director Brandon Cronenberg sets up in the film.

Riseborough played the dualistically toned role of Tasya Vos, an assassin who is able to take control of any individual’s body to complete a hit. During one particularly strenuous mission, she is tasked with inhabiting the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbot) to kill his father-in-law (Sean Bean) and fiancé (Tuppence Middleton). Although much of the film sees Abbot perform as the nonconsenting assassin, Riseborough infects her runtime with such ferocity that Possessor would not be the same without her. 

Possessor’s premise is at the root vile, almost parasitic. Where Riseborough chimes in through this abhorrent narrative is with her character taking on a treacherously tragic role. Through Tasya’s tenancy in other people’s skin, she is unable to form any sense of identity, which is made even more terrifying when it is revealed that she has her own family to also tend to.

Riseborough balances such careful fluidity through Tasya, exposing how versatile she is as an actor. She is able to play a character with no real emotion of her own, whilst still putting on a gripping, devastating show of fantastical dread.

3. To Leslie (2022)

A drama film is only as good as its lead. To drive home the power intended behind any emotional piece of filmmaking, its central performer needs to be an open vessel for the effect to seep through. Michael Morris’s debut feature To Leslie employs Riseborough’s commanding abilities to stir up a mass of conflicting sentiments that call to the actress’s adaptive qualities.

The film follows an alcoholic, Leslie (Riseborough), whose winnings from a previous lottery win have all dried up, leaving her to squander around questioning her purpose, and to come to terms with her addictions. 

To Leslie lays heavy on the hardcore subject matter, which like in Nancy and Possessor is made all the more potent thanks to Riseborough fully assimilating into the shoes of a ruined, hopeless woman. The film valiantly unveils the trauma that Leslie inflicts upon the people around her, whether that be her estranged son James (Owen Teague), or motel owner Sweeney (Marc Maron), who hires Leslie despite her continuous wrongdoings.

Whilst Riseborough portrays a character the viewer roots for, she still manages to convey a disquieting person on the brink of total self-sabotage.

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Andrea Riseborough has thus far in her career earned a lot of respect from her collaborators and fellow professionals for her commitment to her craft and the bravery of her choices. At the Oscars in 2023, her nomination for Actress in a Leading Role was subject to an investigation for breaching campaign rules when a number of popular and influential actresses campaigned on her behalf, ensuring her seat at the table of great living actresses. Now just into her forties, there seems plenty of opportunity for this British performer to earn yet more plaudits in the future.

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