For those of you that didn’t catch yesterday’s post, I’m giving some of my thoughts on the six Sundance movies I watched this week. If you missed yesterday’s post, with the first three reviews, you can find it here.
1 You Won’t Be Alone (dir. Goran Stolevski)
In a lone mountain village, a witch called Old Maid Maria comes to take a newborn girl away. The baby’s mother pleads and makes a deal with Maria, that she can have the child when she turns sixteen to be her own. The mother tries to hide her child in a holy cave, but on the girl’s sixteenth birthday Maria comes a ‘calling. Thus is the birth of a young witch, with powers to take the shape of any human or animal.
You Won’t Be Alone is a gorgeous and thoughtful movie, but sadly it was not for me. I was taken aback that a movie with witches, body-switching, and gore would make me feel so sleepy. After the cold open the majority of the dialogue is the young witch’s internal monologue, and since she’s been secluded all her life the words are very child-like (and subtitled since the language spoken is Macedonian).
The cinematography and inner monologue reminds me a lot of Terrence Malick’s films. What I feel like Stolevski was trying to strive for is what Malick achieved in The Tree of Life. The witch’s inner dialogue is grand and tries to connect all of these big ideas about this life and world, bringing together all of her experiences as different villagers. Here and there a line would hit me but overall I was just trying not to zone out.
This is partially due to the repetitive nature of the movie, along with its glacier pace. There were some strong performances, with Noomi Rapace being my favorite, sadly she’s only in the movie for like fifteen minutes. Sadness all around.
Warning: Many animals die and many are shown on-screen.
2 Dual (dir. Riley Stearns)
In the near future cloning is used for those who are terminally ill and wish to leave their loved ones ‘a gift’. This is the route Sarah (Karen Gillian) wishes to take when she receives the bad news that she’ll soon pass. After months of waiting for the end, Sarah finds out that she’s in remission! But according to the law, there can only be one Sarah, and Double-Sarah isn’t going to leave without a fight. Who will win?
This is going to be a hard movie for some to get into. The dialogue is very dry, monotone, and very blunt. I don’t know if Stearns other movies have similar dialogue patterns, the closest example would be The Lobster. It can be hard to adjust to and made the first act a little rough for me. Once the ‘replacements’ were introduced I was able to have fun with the movie and its bizarre premise.
A huge bonus was when Aaron Paul’s character showed up. Paul had the best handle on Stearns’ dialogue and his interactions with Sarah were the highlights of the movie. I’m kinda mixed on the ending, as it fits with the rest of the movie and its vibes, but was also slightly anticlimactic. I’m back and forth on it.
I’m also mixed on how to recommend this movie. If you liked Stearns’ earlier work, which I plan to check out, or a fan of Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Favorite) then I would give this a shot. If you like quirky sci-fi then this might be up your alley too.
3 Emily the Criminal (dir. John Patton Ford)
Emily (Aubrey Plaza) works for a catering company, but it doesn’t pay the $70k of school debt she owes. Due to an assault charge on her record, Emily is doomed to go to one humiliating interview after the other. Opportunity falls in her lap when she finds herself in the world of dummy shopping. With the taste of the big money she could make from this illegal enterprise, Emily decides to take the reins on her life.
What a lovely end to my 2022 Sundance experience. Aubrey Plaza is my girl, so I’m very biased and thought this was a bomb crime thriller. I thought the set-up is relatable and quickly puts you in Emily’s mindset and why she would start dummy shopping (where you buy big ticket items with a fake credit card and then resell at half the cost).
When Theo Rossi enters the picture (‘Shades’ from Luke Cage!) I was ecstatic because the chemistry between him and Plaza is fire. As Emily’s illegal business grows, so does her relationship with Rossi until everything reaches a boiling point.
I thought Ford does a great job with the escalation of events and building up the tension. Plaza knows how to deliver the anxiety and there were a couple of sequences that had me panicking for her. Highly recommend it!