I have finally made my cinephile dream come true and attended Sundance Film Festival. Here’s the coverage of all the 15 films I have seen.
I can’t recall the last time when any festival was so deeply immersed in the feminine point of view. Sundance Film Festival in 2022 has been a celebration of women’s points of view, their stories, and voices.
Sundance’s major prize went to Nanny (2022) by Nikyatu Jusu. Anna Diop plays Aisha, a Senegalese babysitter hired by a wealthy white couple Amy and Adam. Jusu juggles with genre themes, disguising Aisha’s problems as part horror, part thriller, but maintaining a very powerful dramatic underscore. As a result, Nanny (2022) packs a lot into its tight runtime, putting Diop’s dedicated performance at the heart of the film.
A true standout on the feminine frontier was God’s Country (2022), where a woman who one day finds two hunters trespassing her property, reaches for extreme measures to deal with the problem. What starts off as a setup for a Liam Neeson-style revenge blast refuses to choose the beaten path. Instead, God’s Country (2022) explores topics of belonging, as well as fitting into the world you’re not welcome in, all directed by Julian Higgins with a ticking-bomb unease and precision. Until the very end, God’s Country (2022) resonates with simmering force, in a huge part thanks to Thandiwe Newton’s arresting performance.
Along these lines exists Emily The Criminal (2022) too, a thriller about the titular Emily (Aubrey Plaza) whose life pushes her to the very edge. Left with little choice job-wise, Emily signs up for a “dummy shooter” gig, an illegal way to make a few bucks. What starts off innocently goes completely off the rails, with Emily risking more than her career. Aubrey Plaza has a blast, clearly, as she throws herself into a series of less and bigger fuckups.
While Thandiwe Newton and Aubrey Plaza portrayed the predominantly strong-willed characters, Maika Monroe’s role in Chloe Okuno’s Watcher (2022) observed how paranoia sneaks into a woman whose existential backbone seemed solid. The film finds a young couple moving to Bucharest, with one of them pursuing an over-hours-packed job, meanwhile the other spends time walking around. It’s an airless film, developed hectically within a few interiors and parts of Romanian’s capital.
Watcher (2022) is nowhere near the discomforting thriller Resurrection (2022), which stars Rebecca Hall in just another bonkers horror/thriller mash-up after her The Night House (2021) made it to my top films of 2021. Hall plays a successful businesswoman who finds herself spiraling into a maze of madness when her long-gone ex-partner shows up out of nowhere. Hall gives a fully dedicated, gnarly performance, ornamented with top-quality nuances that the British actress brings to her roles. While the film’s dominated by the leading role and is carried by it too fr its lack of a convincing middle act, it’s nonetheless one of the more memorable movies you should keep on your Sundance 2022 watchlist.
Two films went further down the line of dread. A tormented female character is at the center of Fresh (2022), a zany thriller about the malefic misconceptions created by male predators. Sebastian Stan wears the shoes of Patrick Bateman, living his double life as a charming guy doing regular groceries and all, as well as a psychopath who makes money thanks to his terrifying profession. Stan and leading star Daisy Edgar-Jones have incredible chemistry, and although the film derails in the concluding half an hour, it has already stirred discussions and will surely circulate festivals.
Joining the above league is also Palm Trees And Power Lines (2022), a very close retelling of Red Rocket (2021), but stripped of Sean Baker’s dynamism and positivity. Talking about a bad addiction to another human being, Palm Trees And Power Lines (2022) makes a solid case about the power of connection, and the blinding manipulation that some individuals manage to deploy.
Without a doubt the most artistic piece that graced Sundance 2022 was You Won’t Be Alone (2022). Goran Stolevski’s bizarre bastard child of Terrence Malick and Robert Eggers is a deeply disturbing folk tale about a newborn witch who experiences life through various bodies she snatches. Resonating with profound maturity, this is by far the most A24 film of this year’s festival (ironically already purchased by Focus Features).
Another brilliant non-American film was Klondike (2022), an absolutely soul-crushing, painful tale of two people caught in the crossfire of Donbas war waged between Ukraine and Russia. Director Maryna Er Gorbach lets the story float untempered, with its growingly menacing storytelling, convincing acting, and gorgeous cinematography, all the way until Klondike (2022) delivers its incapacitating conclusion.
Most films in the lineup of Sundance 2022 weren’t the typical light Indies that the festival’s been also known for. However, out of the two comedies I got to watch, the sex-positive comedy Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (2022) has been a major revelation. Emma Thompson-starring dramedy about finding one’s own sex-positivity delivers a spectacle of two phenomenal actors, who find a common language despite the age gap. It’s a beautiful film, soul-stirring and genuinely funny.
Last, but not least, I’d recommend checking out Speak No Evil (2022), a thriller about one trip to the Netherlands that ends up quite badly for a Danish family. Its themes of powerlessness, and how people let evil control them, blend with its borderline comedy character.
Check out my Sundance Film Festival 2022 reviews below.