Saturday was an ambitious undertaking in watching as many films on my slate as possible, spanning different genres, tone, and stories. As day four is coming to a close, I can confidently say there is a trend in the type of stories being celebrated at Sundance this year – strong, messy, fun, empathetic, grounded, and triumphant women on screen and behind the camera.
Max Walker-Silverman’s drama A Love Song kicked off my morning, and it was one of the most beautiful stories I’ve seen in a long time about reconnection, loss, love and the tenderness that comes with it. Dale Dickey wonderfully inhabits her character Faye, recently widowed, out in the wilderness, once her home from many moons before, patiently waiting for a reconnection and hopeful romantic spark with a childhood sweetheart Lito, with a fantastic performance by Wes Studi. There isn’t any fancy camera work or slick storytelling going on here. It’s about the human connection to the earth and to oneself. Max enhances the story with a whimsical group of cowhands, led by a young boy Dice, which brings levity to quieter moments for Faye. A Love Story is one of those independent movies you can tell was made with a lot of love from both the cast and crew.
Next up on the agenda was The Worst Person in the World directed by Joachim Trier and co-written with longtime collaborator Eskil Vogt. The story immediately pulls you into the world view of Julie, poignantly played by Renate Reinsve, and how she moves through that world and the connections she makes and breaks, out of convenience. Joachim and Eskil take creative liberties in their world building and character development, but there is a rhyme and reason behind every decision. This is the type of film that can easily inspire you to become a filmmaker and simply fall in love with cinema. I only wish I could’ve seen this one on the big screen.
A film to not be paired with dinner is the thriller Resurrection, by Andrew Semans, with incredibly haunting performances by Rebecca Hall as Margaret and Tim Roth as David. The film pulls you in with Margaret’s strong personality and how she communicates with others, pointedly her daughter. As with any great thriller, Andrew slowly builds tension and twists and turns, that are both unnerving and imaginative.
Amy Poehler takes the helm again, this time for her new documentary Lucy & Desi. As recently seen in Sorkin’s latest film Being the Ricardo’s, Lucy and Desi were a creative force to be reckoned with. What this documentary wonderfully captures, that the Sorkin film didn’t, was the life lived by both creatives, the hardships they individually encountered and had to confront and overcome. And above else, how both Lucy and Desi understood and embraced the value of laughter. Amy had resources at her fingertips, that any documentarian would dream for, audio tapes recorded by Lucille Ball and home videos, wonderfully encapsulating their love and fall out – the ultimate burn out many creatives at the top of their game will soon endure. If anything, it plays out like a love letter to a comedy legend from another.
As I waited for the Midnight premiere of Hatching, I excitedly switched on the short animated film Stranger Than Rotterdam, directed by Lewie and Noah Klester and written by Sara Driver. Being a diehard Jim Jarmusch fan, I knew that I was in for something out of the ordinary and extraordinary with Sara giving a vivid retelling of how she and Jim made his short film turned feature film Stranger Than Paradise in the early 80s. For those that have made movies and encountered the many unwarranted obstacles and fires that come with making a movie, this movie is for you. It’s also a great glimpse into what a great film producer aka a firefighter will do to make a movie. Also, if you’re a Rolling Stones fan – this is for you too.
The first time I stood in line for a Sundance Film Festival Midnight screening in 2012 was one of the most memorable – the energy and excitement to see an out of the world film with fellow cinephiles was palpable – sprinkled in with the delirium many of us had from bouncing around Main Street and other venues since 7am. Films like Wrong by filmmaker Quentin Dupieux, and Excision by Richard Bates Jr., blew my mind. While most films were sold out, there was the off chance of still getting in waiting in the standby line, nestled in a tent, in a tunnel, in a hallway, wherever they could make it work – you had the opportunity to network with fans and other filmmakers. I had waited an hour or so to see John Dies at the End by Don Coscarelli, we were all hopeful we would make it in on that very cold late night. I was in my early twenties, and my diet was coffee and cigarettes, the latter I’m not proud of, and as I pulled out a cigarette I hear a man ask, “Hey, can I bum one of those off of you?” and I look up and it’s the one and only Paul Giamatti. We chatted for a few moments, sucking on cancer sticks, talking about movies and a mutual friend we shared. I didn’t get into the screening, but that moment was well worth it.
The films that have since premiered at Sundance’s Midnight screenings, cease to ever disappoint. I ended my Saturday night with Hatching. It was everything you’d hope it to be and then some. It was charming, it was off the wall, it was full of gore and great storytelling, thanks to visionary Finnish filmmaker Hanna Bergholm. At the heart of the movie, it’s about the desire for affection and feeling you are deserving of it, as is the case for young Tinja, played by Siiri Solalinna who gives one of the most endearing and notable performances in the film.