I wanted to take a few weeks to think about the movies from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Most film writers can hurry during the hectic times of attending a film festival, even if you log in virtually. It makes sense since they are under the pressure of a deadline and are eager to share their thoughts (even I tweeted and logged my thoughts on Letterboxd). Since I wasn’t credentialed for the festival (i.e., paid my way to watch), I decided to go on my own timeframe. And why not? The Oscar nominations or the latest TV series dominate the Twitter discourse anyway. Sundance movies are celebrated year-round, so what’s the difference in writing about them the following month? Here are my thoughts on some of the films I was able to see.
This award-winning doc Aftershock resonated with me even more because I work in healthcare staffing. I have thought about it often while on the job—a vital and must-see watch for every healthcare professional in America. I admired the men who had to confront their PTSD in the group therapy session and Helena Grant, the director of midwifery at the Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, making a difference. Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee expose U.S. Maternal Health Crisis with a degree of urgency and thought. Oynx and ABC News acquired this doc for an eventual Hulu release.
All That Breathes
Shocked that this one hasn’t been picked up yet, but it might not be the easiest sell. Shaunak Sen’s “All The Breathes” won World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in a competitive lineup that gave us “The Terrority,” Alex Pritz’s stunning directorial debut, and the heartbreaking and remarkable “A House Made of Splinters.” The India doc focuses on Delhi’s air quality and rising social upheaval; brothers Saud and Nadeem commit their lives to rescue birds. Spellbinding with the intricate details of humanity and nature, I had to rewatch a few scenes twice, including the lovely closing credits.
Leonor Will Never Die
Few movies were as unpredictable as Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Filipino psychological comedy-drama. A nostalgic love letter to cheesy 80s action films, “Leonor Will Never Die,” lifted my movie-loving spirits as a capricious and heartwarming meta tale. A filmmaker falls into a coma after an accident only to become the action heroine of her incomplete screenplay. What a wacky and charming delight, a true award winner. I’m rooting for Music Box Films to find an audience among cinephiles.
A British remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Ikiru,” Oliver Hermanus’s “Living” was the best movie I watched during Sundance. I was moved during the opening credits from the classic cinematography to the luminous musical score that remained throughout the film. Like “Passing” the previous year, it felt like a movie from its era. Bill Nighy was exceptional, and the conclusion was very emotionally satisfying. I need to rewatch the original to compare, but I love everything here. Sony Classics acquired this for a likely fall awards release.
A Love Song
Max Walker-Silverman’s meditative drama is anchored by somber performances from Dale Dickey and Wes Studi as childhood friends now widows reflecting on life. Some of my favorite moments involved a group of cowboys moving a canoe and engine across the frame in an almost Wes Anderson level of cheekiness. The vast, gorgeous Colorado mountain scenery was like a lingering supporting character. I was excited to see what Max does Next. Bleecker Street picked this one up to be released later this year.
Other memorable moments from Sundance movies include sweetly quirky narration from Miranda July in “Fire of Love,” the archival footage used in “Riotsville, USA,” Rebecca Hall’s performance in “Resurrection,” the perfect ending for “Girl Picture,” and the use of the Cha-Cha Slide song in “Cha Cha Real Smooth.”