From Reservoir Dogs to Little Miss Sunshine, the Sundance Film Festival has introduced us to some of the best movies ever made, so here are 10 films from this year’s Sundance that everyone’s going to be talking about in 2017…
Dee Rees (Pariah, Bessie) brought to Sundance a devastating story about two families — one white, one black — in 1940s post-war Mississippi, who are pitted against each other in the social hierarchy of the era. The two leads come back decorated war heroes but little has changed; Ronsel still has to sit in the coloured section of the bus, soon realising that risking his life for his country meant nothing to society. Mudbound is old-fashioned in its rawness, but refined and leisurely in its storytelling. Based on a novel by Hillary Jordan, it stars Garret Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Carey Mulligan, Rob Morgan, and Mary J. Blige.
The Big Sick provoked a bidding war before eventually landing with Amazon Studios. Starring and co-written by Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) with his wife Emily Gordon, this semi-autobiographic tragic rom-com is about how the pair came together. Nanjiani plays a Pakistani stand-up comic whose girlfriend (Zoe Kazan) falls into a coma, and whose family don’t support his career or his relationship with a white woman and her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter). It’s a comedy about culture clashes, a romance about young loves, and a tragedy about the woman you love falling ill with a mystery infection.
David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) returned to Sundance with a haunting new tale, inspired by an argument he had with his wife (over how he didn’t want to abandon a house where he could feel the memories of past tenants). The sparse and striking narrative revolves around a spectral figure (Casey Affleck) and his grief stricken lover (Rooney Mara), the former of whom was taken prematurely from this life and can only watch the pain of his lover from under a white sheet as his humanity slowly fades away. The film cost nearly nothing to make, with few scenes taking place outside of a single house and a minimal use of visual effects. A Ghost Story is a different take on a supernatural narrative, which doesn’t concentrate on death, but its aftermath. This is a story that will haunt you.
Set in mid-1990s Manhattan, Gillian Robespierre’s follow up to Obvious Child explores how family bonds can grow through lying and cheating. Dana’s (Jenny Slate) looming marriage to straight-laced Ben has created a newly found wild side, whilst her younger sister is wasting her high school days on sex and drugs. The sisters discover a collection of love letter penned by their father and try to expose the affair without their mother knowing. The ‘90s setting of Landline isn’t just to please the wash of nostalgic millennials, but it was the era that allowed women to be aggressive and free, while embracing the lack of Internet as a plot point. Starring Jenny Slate, Edie Falco, Abby Quinn, John Turturro, Jay Duplass, and Finn Wittrock.
5. The Discovery
The main question The Discovery wants answered is ‘what would you do if there was proof of an afterlife?’ Director and co-writer Charlie McDowell (The One I Love) returns with a metaphysical thriller about a world renowned physicist, Dr. Thomas Harber (Robert Redford), who has scientifically proven the existence of the afterlife, with dire consequences for society. His son (Jason Segel) tries to confront the situation by returning to the island where he grew up, before crossing paths with Isla (Rooney Mara), a woman with a mysterious and tragic past which forces the pair to reflect on past choices how they’ve got to where they are.
Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a lonely, neurotic, hilariously honest middle-aged man reunited with his estranged wife (Laura Dern), and the misanthropic love rat gets a second chance of happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter he’s never met. A Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award winner at 2014’s Sundance Film Festival for Skeleton Twins, director Craig Johnson again delivers a film that fins humour in the darkest of places. This film adapts Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) namesake graphic novel, making a human-hating jerk somehow lovable despite all his imperfections.
The eponymous Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman) is a precociously talented writer whose first novel makes her a celebrity, but his dystopian observations provoke tragic reactions from young readers. Suddenly the young writer’s name is cloaked in scandal, as dark secrets from his past interfere with his chances at finding love with his childhood sweetheart (Elle Fanning) — the film depicting his life aged 18, 24, and 30. Directed and co-written by Stellastarr’s frontman Shawn Christensen, this co-stars Nathan Lane, Michelle Monaghan, and Kyle Chandler. An impressive examination of social pressures that’ll become a cult favourite with the under-30s.
Two childhood friends — contemptuous Lily (Anya Taylor Joy) and emotionally challenged Amanda (Olivia Cook) — are thrown back together by tutoring. As Lily’s stepdad conspires to send her to a reform school while she dreams of college, the two girls show their skills of master manipulation and somewhat sinister tendencies. Thoroughbred showcases an eerie score, dark acidic wit, and sharply written females. This has the potential to be the new Heathers. This film is also one of the last films made by Anton Yelchin before his untimely death in 2016.
Lemon is as quirky as the fruit is yellow. Isaac Lachmann (Brett Gelman) is a failing actor struggling as he watches his peers succeed. His own family see him as an underachiever and his blind longterm girlfriend is planning to leave him, so the root of this film is the struggle of trying to define yourself in a world that’s turning its back. This genre-defying debut from Janicza Bravo is as hilarious as it is uncomfortable, with idiosyncratic supporting roles from Sundance favourites Michael Cera, Martin Starr, Gillian Jacobs, Megan Mullally, and Nia Long.
On 10 April 1980, a shot rang out on the streets of Crown Heights. This film is the harrowing true story of the decades long search for justice. Keith Stanfield (Dope, NWA) plays Colin Warner, a man arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. The judicial system quickly throws him away, refusing to listen, but his best friend never stops devoting his life to restoring Colin’s freedom. Writer-director Matt Ruskin worked closely and earned the trust of the real life Warner, making this film as authentic as it is painful to watch. With new stories of police killings and racism in the news this film becomes even more powerful to watch.