The final few days of Sundance just happened, and I was initially only planning to cover the three films that I saw on Day 6 of Sundance. However, when a certain film won an award and became available to watch on the final day of the festival, I made time to fit that final film into my schedule, making this total up to four for the past few days.
Without further ado, here are my reviews of the four films I saw on days 6 and 7 at the Sundance Film Festival.
The World to Come
Director: Mona Fastvold
Writers: Ron Hansen, Jim Shepard
Starring: Vanessa Kirby, Kathrine Waterston, Casey Affleck
Synopsis: Two women who forge a close connection despite their isolation in the mid-19th-century American frontier.
It can feel like the lesbian period pieces are slowly copying the same formula, especially since the past year has provided films such as Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Ammonite. However, The World to Come is a wonderful story that focuses on the character development individually first, then allowing them to connect naturally from there.
All of the performances in this film are wonderful, but especially the two leading performances from Waterston and Kirby. A lot of pressure is put on them, particularly Waterston, to carry this film. You can feel the connection between them and the romance forming throughout. This is also joyous to watch when having these scenes contrast with those of their partners, played by Abbott and Affleck, who sell the roles of the arrogant men in their lives.
I also really enjoyed the craft that went into this film. The score in particular peaked my interest, given how prominent it was and yet so fitting to the tone. It is easy to fall into the cozy atmosphere of this film with the lovely production design and to simply watch the two leading ladies continue to be entranced by each other throughout the film.
Director: Nikole Beckwith
Writer: Nikole Beckwith
Starring: Ed Helms, Patti Harrison, Rosaling Chao
Synopsis: When young loner Anna is hired as the surrogate for Matt, a single man in his 40s, the two strangers come to realize this unexpected relationship will quickly challenge their perceptions of connection, boundaries and the particulars of love.
There is so much to love with Together Together, particularly the storyline. The film rightfully touches on several ideas, such as surrogacy and the stigma between single mothers and single fathers. There are scenes within this film that I will love for a long time, particularly when it touches on the subject of single fathers and what they have to go through.
It is so easy to connect with our two lead characters. They feel like real people and it is easy to see their relationship mature throughout the pregnancy. When this film needs humour, it lightens up and has some fun. When it is making commentary, it makes sure to do it in a smart manner, and the script is incredibly clever.
There are some small issues that I had with the film, however. There is a side character that is so over-the-top in stereotypes and ruins the natural feel of the film. I also found the last 15 minutes to be incredibly rushed, ending the film quite abruptly. I get what the film wanted to do, but I am not sure it fully achieved what it was aiming for. It is, however, a charming film that is an easy recommend for anyone.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Director: Jane Schoenbrun
Writer: Jane Schoenbrun
Starring: Anna Cobb, Michael J Rogers, May Leitz
Synopsis: Late on a cold night somewhere in the U.S., teenage Casey sits alone in her attic bedroom, scrolling the internet under the glow-in-the-dark stars and black-light posters that blanket the ceiling. She has finally decided to take the World’s Fair Challenge, an online role-playing horror game, and embrace the uncertainty it promises.
I really wish I was able to enjoy this film, as there are some great ideas. The opening sequence is captivating, drawing you straight into the situation and intrigued about what would unravel and what the plot would be. Unfortunately, I could not connect to what would follow that scene.
There are some good aspects to this film, particularly the leading performance and the cinematography. The film, however, is not able to get a grasp of what message it truly wanted to communicate. There is a place right now for a story that talks about the dangers of speaking to strangers online and the dangerous challenges that social media promotes, and I wish the film continued to focus on that.
Just as the film starts well, the film also ends well. However, for 20 minutes of quality film comes with an hour in between that I just could not enjoy. I never felt truly creeped out or scared, I never felt compelled about the situation and I struggled to connect with our leading character. Sadly, this story just left me wanting so much more.
On the Count of Three
Director: Jerrod Carmichael
Writers: Ari Katcher, Ryan Welch
Starring: Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish
Synopsis: Val has reached a place where he feels the only way out is to end things. But he considers himself a bit of a failure—his effectiveness lacking—so he figures he could use some help. As luck would have it, Val’s best friend, Kevin, is recovering from a failed suicide attempt, so he seems like the perfect partner for executing this double suicide plan. But before they go, they have some unfinished business to attend to.
At first, I was unsure what I was going to make of On the Count of Three. I was worried that the initial tone would be unable to balance the dark humour with such a serious subject matter and that I would not be able to take it seriously. However, that turned out not to be the case as this film walks a very fine line to present a serious story and still make it an engaging watch throughout.
Part of the reason that this is the case is down to the leading performances. Not only is Jerrod Carmichael directing this film, he also stars in it and balances both roles incredibly well. Christopher Abbott is sensational in this, giving what is such a raw and impactful performance that leaves you emotionally drained by the end of this film.
Speaking of the ending of the film, this may be one of the strongest ends of a film at Sundance this year. A story like this is hard to wrap-up, but this story could not have been told otherwise. From start to finish, you are whisked away on this journey with our two leads and become emotionally connected with their story and relationship, hitting you at every point that it can. Some small pacing issues and side characters stop this from being absolute top-tier, but it is a film I will not forget about for a long while.