Sundance 2022 Capsule Reviews

At this year’s virtual Sundance Film Festival, I got the chance to see six films. It’s not a lot, but I did get to see some exciting premieres. My rankings will be from worst to first, but by no means are any of these bad films — some just aren’t as good as the others on my list. 

6: After Yang – This sci-fi film is directed by Koganada, whose last film Columbus is widely acclaimed, so I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. It started out with a fun dance sequence but goes downhill from there. Colin Farrell plays a father who has to go around seeing if he can get his life-like robot fixed after it malfunctions. This is a film that is plodding. It drags on as it goes. The great cast that consists of Haley Lu Richardson and other known actors and actresses are wasted. Koganada’s sophomore outing isn’t very good. Maybe his third film will be better.

3 stars, A24/Showtime

5: Happening – This film is a story of a college-age woman in 1960s France. She inadvertently gets pregnant by a man at a one-night stand. She spends the entire film trying to get an abortion in a time and era where this is strictly forbidden. This film deals with a very tough subject matter and the answers we get aren’t easy to accept. The lead performance by Anamaria Vartolomai is very good and I was completely on board with her journey throughout the film. She is in a difficult situation no matter what side of the fence she is on in the film.

3 ½ stars, IFC Films

4: Dual – This film is about a world where if you get sick you can have a life model decoy created to live the rest of your life for you. In this case, a woman (played by Karen Gillian) has been diagnosed with cancer, so she gets one of these models to replace her after her passing. The problem is when she eventually gets cured of her cancer and wants to get rid of the decoy. Now that the decoy has sentience, it doesn’t want to leave the mortal coil. Law says they have to duel it out for existence. Karen Gillian is fantastic as both characters. The film’s message about how life is important is not forgotten by me and that’s why it is a very prophetic film. People forget that life is precious and we should value it and hang on to it.

3 ½ stars, RLJE Films

3: Living – This film is about a man, played by Bill Nighy, who doesn’t have long to live, but makes the most of his time while he has it. He also tries to make an impression on his co-workers and the people he meets while he can. This film also deals with how important life is while you have it. And Nighy gives a quiet but very powerful performance, maybe the best of his career. This subtle little film should not be missed by anyone. It is amazing!

4 stars, Sony Pictures Classics

2: Fresh – This film is about a woman (Daisy Edger Jones) who is discouraged by dating life until she meets a man at a grocery store (Sebastian Stan). They hit it off and eventually go on a secluded vacation in the woods at a very beautiful house. This sounds too good to be true and things go downhill from there for this woman, but uphill for the film. Fans of horror/thrillers and romance films are going to love this film. It takes those tropes and turns them on its head. Stan is over-the-top as this suave ladies man with great charisma and personality. And Jones is a revelation as this woman who finds herself in a life and death situation.

4 ½ stars, Searchlight/Hulu

1: Cha Cha Real Smooth – This film is about a young man, played by Cooper Raiff, who finds himself toiling away at a hotdog stand at the mall when some friends convince him to be a party starter for bar and bat mitzvahs. He finds he is very good at it and eventually meets a woman (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter who has autism. They hit it off and he becomes the sitter for her and that opens up his emotional state of mind. Raiff, also the director and writer of the film, gives a great performance as this young man who is struggling with his personal life and professional life as a whole. He gives this character a lot of empathy and love. It shows in spades in the end product. This is an amazing film with multiple messages about life, love, and responsibility. I loved this film and I cried at the end, which I usually don’t do very often in films.

5 stars, Apple TV+

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

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