2022’s all-virtual Sundance Film Festival brought together a variety of films, with the festival’s usual eye for exciting new voices on full display. It seemed this year that nearly every selection featured at least one big-name actor in the majority of the projects. Below is our full coverage for the Sundance festival, and links to full reviews when available.



Since its debut at Cannes, sci-fi drama/curiosity After Yang caught my attention. With a diverse and eclectic cast led by Colin Farrell, the film has a plethora of things to say about Chinese adoptions and giving one’s life over to tea, but appears to forget that it needs to tell an entertaining story. When Yang (Justin H. Min), the family android, needs fixing, the entire family is thrown into an existential crisis. They must all deal with the very real possibility that they will never get Yang back, and learn how to live without him. The best part is an exciting and hilarious opening dance sequence that morph the stuffiness of bland opening credits into an extravaganza of energy. Mixed messaging, the annoyance of repetitious dialogue, and a head-scratching ending will make me think twice before recommending this one.


Based on a play of the same name, Monia Chokri’s Babysitter is a colorful, sexually-depraved oddity that I found a difficult time coming to terms with. In a tone described as “American Beauty meets the world of Xavier Dolan,” two bumbling brothers work on a book together—aptly titled Sexist Story—that is meant to give them a free pass for their grossly misplaced misogny. A mysterious new babysitter named Amy (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) will challenge everything they think they know about themselves, as well as their ultimate accountability. Babysitter is an unfiltered bizarro comedy that is sure to find a big audience, while the themes of sexual exploitation and gender roles are nuanced and intriguing.


Set in the 1960s and shot on distracting 16 millimeter, Call Jane deals with a heavy topic in a confounding way. Essentially known as the Underground Railroad for abortions, this real-life story of the Call Jane service deserves a darker script to really dig into the subject matter. Charming as hell as the lead, Elizabeth Banks does a great job, but it is when Sigourney Weaver is onscreen that the film morphs into an entertaining riff on reality. Obvious music cues made me laugh out loud, juxtaposing lyrical symmetry against similar, often comically-tinged situations. Over two hours in length, Call Jane cannot decide whether or not it wants to exist as a potent take-down of the patriarchy, or a light comedy that embraces the absurdity of the time period.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Realizing Emergency has the same director as last year’s R#J and also recognizing logistically how much I absolutely hated that film, this movie already faced an uphill battle in my mind. A talented young cast (including RJ Cyler and Sabrina Carpenter) try their damndest to strengthen a politically-charged yet narratively-bereft dark dramedy. Cyler plays Sean, one half of a best-friend duo that includes straight-laced bestie, Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins). Sean and Kunle are determined to be the first black students to complete their school’s frat party “legendary tour.” All seems to go according to plan—until they find an unconscious white girl. Do they call 911? Do they let her “sleep it off,” or should they assume the worst? From this point on, bad decisions abound as a seemingly small situation balloons into a heated confrontation that may yield tragic results. An intense scene with the cops in the final act of Emergency is the high point—nothing before nor after yields the same crackling power. You don’t often see two bros getting this in tune with their feelings, but thankfully, Emergency’s big emotional denouement between Sean and Kunle features two fantastic performances. I wish the movie had gone to darker emotional places—Emergency has so much to say that it often stumbles on its way to the finish line.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


(Written by Allison Brown) I always love a festival surprise, and for Sundance this year, that was Alli Haapasalo’s Girl Picture. I almost skipped this title, but I am so glad I didn’t. The coming-of-age romantic drama stars Aamu Milonoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen, Linnea Leino as Mimmi, Rönkkö, and Emma respectively. Each actress sparkles in their nuanced emotional portrayals of female hardships. Mimmi has a nearly absent mother who remarried to create a new family; Rönkkö struggles with finding a partner with whom she actually enjoys sex; and Emma endeavors to rediscover her lost Triple Lutz in the confined, one-track life of a figure skating rising star. Writers Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen did a fantastic job with the script, as the language is generally believable as teen conversation and not at all forced. There are, however, a few times where I laughed out loud at how silly the phrases were, like “Why don’t you dump your stupid jokes in the blender instead?” and “I came to come.” I find these hilarious one-liners to be a strength of the film, though, not a weakness. At times, I felt a disconnect to see characters seemingly living alone or barely attending school as high school students, but this is frequently the case in many American teen dramas on television as well. There is also a nearly shot for shot scene parallel with the season two premiere of Euphoria, where a character is accidentally stuck in the bathtub with the curtains closed, while another couple walks in and performs sex acts. Ironically, I am almost sure Girl Picture was filmed first. Many of the overarching themes of the film, such as sexual freedom, budding LGBT love, independence, and messy choices, do fall in line with Euphoria, and the show’s fans would surely enjoy this title.


Full review at the link.


(Written by Allison Brown) While I thought I would be getting a family movie with Maika, it is undeniably a kids title through and through. The cheesy vibe of the narrative veers towards that of a Disney Channel Original Movie. I anticipated a more science fiction leaning plot, yet it is closer to superhero fiction, with an alien girl, Maika, also from the planet Maika, taking the savior helms. Maika (Diep Anh Tru) herself is comparable to both 1982’s E.T. and Superman canon. She is essentially E.T., if E.T. were female, possessed superpowers, and looked like the Na’vi from 2009’s Avatar in her true form and Lavagirl from 2005’s The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in her human form. Each time there is a potentially truly tender moment between lead character Hung (Phu Truong) and supporting cast Cu Beo (Tin Tin) or Maika, an unnecessary crude joke is brought forward. These include an extended infantile commentary on farting and picking boogers, repetition of the use of a kimchi bomb (wielding the spicy pickled dish as a weapon), as well as a shot of a villain’s pants tearing to expose underwear. The cronies, Nghia (HuyMe) and Bull (Tuấn Voi), remind me of those from 1990’s Home Alone or 2002’s Big Fat Liar; their characterization is so underdeveloped. There is so much potential here, but it is obvious that director Ham Tran did not intend this film for an older target audience whatsoever, and that is fine. The runtime should probably be adjusted to factor in the attention span of junior audiences. Young children will surely enjoy this in sustained laughter. Don’t expect Maika, however, to bring more sophistication or originality than it does for the general audience.


Full review at the link.


Definitely more a dark drama than a horror thriller despite being presented otherwise, Nanny acts as an acting masterclass for Titans star Anna Diop. Diop plays Aisha, a Senegalese immigrant whose new job as (unsurprisingly) a nanny for a wealthy couple is not as simple and easy as it first appears. A tour of the couple’s massive Manhattan apartment goes swimmingly enough. Aisha is warned about lighting incense for fear of the daughter, Rose (Rose Decker), being hypersensitive to smells, and to stay out of the husband’s office. She is given her own room “for overnights,” and invited to make the space her own. Amy (Michelle Monaghan) is possessive and troubled, while her husband Adam (Morgan Spector) seems faux-woke and unfaithful. Rose turns out to be the sweetest girl, and spending time with her only makes Aisha miss her own son, Lamine (Jahleel Kamara), that much more. As his birthday approaches, Aisha prepares for Lamine’s arrival in America. A supernatural presence all around her seems to have other plans… Nanny features disturbing visuals like black mold and creeping spiders, waterlogged nightmares and an atmosphere of confusion and mystery. Conclusively, something is missing. The horror is barely there, and the pieces did not all come together for me in a satisfying way. That ending though packs a serious punch—Nanny caught me off guard at how dark it becomes. It is an impressive debut feature from Nikyatu Jusu and a phenomenal performance from Anna Diop.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Slick and beautifully made, Watcher is a jet-black mystery thriller that simmers in its slow-burn existence until coming in for the kill in the final act. It is actually hilarious how much the film parallels other projects for the leads—once again, Maika Monroe gets followed by a potentitally creepy, murderous presence (see 2014’s It Follows), and similarly, Karl Glusman has done the whole awful boyfriend character before with Gaspar Noe’s Love. For this viewer, Watcher evokes Hitchcock’s Rear Window on a narrative level, while visually delivering gasp-worthy wide shots and eye-popping colors and lighting. Watcher may not be a straightforward horror film, but seeing the titular character’s silhouette wave back to Monroe’s Julia from his window is one of the scariest images of the entire festival.


After its debut at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, it seemed like all of film Twitter and every critic circle was raving about The Worst Person in the World. Now that I finally had a chance to see it, I can safely say that I am in the minority here when it comes to this particular title. I understand that Julie (a fantastic Renate Reinsve) is supposed to be a literally awful person, but I found myself rolling my eyes at her questionable decision making. A bizarre narration that reads more like a book than a movie does not help matters either; it creates a strange distance between the viewer and the character. That the film has a sudden jarring emotional throughline in only the final 20 minutes or so makes it all feel disconnected and utterly disjointed.



My Trip to Spain is a charming little short film narrated by Theda Hammel, who also writes, directs, and stars. The name is something of a misnomer. Although this is about a trans woman preparing for a trip to Spain for facial reconstruction surgery, none of it actually takes place in Spain. Several precious minutes of the runtime are spent on compost lessons, and a random gay hookup that took me by surprise. That said, it is charming enough, and features insight about one’s home, no matter how nice, turning into a rotting tank during COVID quarantine.

We can’t wait for wider audiences to see many of these films, especially our favorite movies of the festival—which include 892, Fresh, and Cha Cha Real Smooth—in celebration of this insurmountable pool of talent. Perhaps next year, we can further cover Sundance. Here’s to 2023!

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