Uncovering some unexpected road not travelled in the life of someone you are vaguely acquainted with must be truly strange. There is that distance between the two participants, where they are not emotionally tuned to one another, so any advice or response may feel shallow and generalised. But not here, and certainly not for Nathan Fielder. His fascination with William Heath and his search for long lost love Frances has consumed Heath, and with the help of Felder, the two set out to find one another. There lies the beauty of Nathan for You: Finding Frances. It is a grand act of charity between two relative strangers. Fielder realises rather quickly that if he does not help Heath, nobody will.
Fielder and Heath search for a woman the latter is infatuated with. All they have to go off of is Heath’s brief recollection of Frances and a love that has burned since the early 1960s. It is intense, brilliant investigative work that Fielder apparently provides in his show and work time and time again. It is easy to see where the charms and talents of Fielder’s craft come from. Nathan for You: Finding Frances, although rounding out the end of his show, provides a good, generalised palette of what is to be expected with the television show. His ability to pull amazing ingenuity and sudden intensity out of the mundane, passionless bouts of life are incredible, and the emotion on display throughout from both Fielder and Heath is a striking display.
But nothing is as it seems, or at least, that is the impression we are given. We learn as Fielder learns, and what he learns is little. There is no reassurance that Heath is acting with truly moral means. We have not satiated the desire to know that finding Frances is the right thing to do. In essence, that is where Nathan for You: Finding Frances begins to spiral. “You’re a little funny, kind of mean, but…” Macey, an escort he hires for Heath, says. It is a harsh but fair analysis of Fielder’s field of work. Pockets of poetry intermingled with a distant uncomfortable expression, not just on Fielder’s face, but of those around him also. It is never clear where he draws the line of reality and fiction, and as the two blurs together, Nathan for You: Finding Frances both loses its footing but presents a newfound charm as well.
As a creative, Fielder is impressive. This is my first and only experience with his work, but considering that, it is impressive how great an impression he leaves not just on an audience, but the people he interacts with. His relationship and surprise dynamic with Heath are endearing, littered with moments of accidental comedy and genuine sentimentality. How we recollect pieces of our history and hold onto the fleeting moments of our past is a beautiful sentiment, embodied so well by the lust of an elderly man who has lived alone for his seventy-plus years on Earth. Fielder’s work is far smarter than it lets on, and there is a strong blend of reality-television bashing and genuine investigative journalism. How terrifying it must be to have lingering traces of your life scattered across a country, only to have moved far, far away from that world. That is the tragedy at the heart of Nathan for You: Finding Frances, but its journey is far more important than its outcome.