For the second year in a row, the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah has gone entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this development is an unfortunate setback to the theatrical festival experience, the decision to expand the festival’s virtual program subsequently made Sundance more accessible to attendees across the United States.
After seeing nearly 20 feature films from the festival over the past week, I’ve compiled a list of a few movies that, for better or worse, really stood out from this year’s Sundance lineup.
When you’re done saving the world
“When you’re done saving the world” centers on a complicated relationship between an abuse shelter operator and his son – a viral internet musician. It had the potential to be Sundance’s most uncomfortable movie this year based on its premise alone, but instead it packs an incredible amount of heart and humor into its relatively brief runtime.
It’s a delight to see Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard act opposite each other as their characters struggle to understand each other’s life choices and professions, especially since the character de Wolfhard falsely pursues politics in an attempt to seduce a girl from his school. Funny and heartfelt, this debut album from Jesse Eisenberg is easily one of the best tracks to come from Sundance this time around.
Following in the footsteps of other topical horror films that came before it, Mimi Cave’s “Fresh” tries to serve up a compelling parable about the perils of modern dating. However, it ultimately lacks the bite to do so convincingly. Although it reserves some central surprises, “Fresh” isn’t scary enough or thrilling enough to be a great genre film – it relies too heavily on outdated tropes to advance the already flimsy plot. Plus, Sebastian Stan’s jarring and unwieldy performance is probably his worst yet, which is very unfortunate to see from such a talented actor.
Karen Gillan, who plays two roles in “Dual,” can’t quite salvage this twisty sci-fi flick about a woman who trains to kill a clone of herself in a court-mandated fight to the death. While the premise of “Dual” sounds solid on paper, the movie’s funny sense of comedy gets repetitive early on, which at times feels like it’s hard to get through. Simply put, it’s one of the most surprising misses of the festival this year.
Rebecca Hall’s performance is a tour de force in this thriller about a mother who is forced to put her life on the line when her family comes face to face with a mysterious figure from her past. Tense and unnerving, “Resurrection” brilliantly explores the lingering effects manipulation can have on a person, all leading to a deeply unsettling finale that will shock even the most hardened viewers. This is the one to watch once it finds the distribution.
With only his second feature film, writer-director Kogonada is establishing himself as one of the most essential cinematic voices of the past decade. “After Yang” focuses on a family’s attempt to come to terms with the potential loss of their beloved robot, Yang, while examining the powerful hold memories can have on humans and artificial beings. Blending sci-fi with a strong emotional core, this film is an undeniably resounding feat of cinema.
Dark and timely as always, this drama about a devoted student’s quest to obtain an abortion in France in the 1960s, at a time when such procedures were illegal in the country, is by far the most riveting film to present. at Sundance this year. Anamaria Vartolomei burns across the screen with a ferocity that is a wonder to behold. The claustrophobic way the film is shot ensures that the viewer is always aware of what might happen next. “Happening” is a brilliant film, with one of the most unforgettable endings in recent memory.
Speak no evil
The less you know about “Speak No Evil” before watching it, the better. What begins as a seemingly tranquil film about two different families who meet on vacation in Italy gradually turns into a thrill ride that plunges the viewer into a state of utter terror. This film doesn’t hold back at all and revels in its nightmarish atmosphere until its chilling conclusion.