"I'll be your mirror," intoned Nico in 1966, singing one of the many tunes given her by a lover. In retrospect, the line neatly captures the model-actress-singer's '60s persona: a thin, icily beautiful, dyed-blonde blankness, to be defined by Federico Fellini and Andy Warhol, Lou Reed (who wrote "I'll Be Your Mirror") and Bob Dylan.
By 1986, when Nico, 1988 opens, the singer has banished all that: she's become brunette, and cantankerous, and she's gained some weight. She still sings under the name Nico, but her performances are staged mostly to subsidize her true vocation, heroin user. And she insists that acquaintances use her real name, Christa.
Italian writer-director Susanna Nicchiarelli's scrappy biopic is billed as a somewhat fictionalized "true story." The script jibes with some accounts of the singer's final years, and any unreliability is partly the responsibility of its subject, who often lied about her life.
The truth of the film, though, is mostly in Trine Dyrholm's performance. The Danish actress (best known for The Commune) plays Nico as perplexing and intriguing, ethereal yet earthy. She manages to make the viewer understand why some people wanted to be around the singer, even though she was demanding, exasperating and untrustworthy—in short, a junkie.