Sundance and Ice Cream: Day 4

Day three of my coverage of the Sundance Film Festival

I Didn’t See You There
dir. Reid Davenport

Director Reid Davenport lives his life lower to the ground.  Confined to a wheelchair, he longs for perspective from his point of view.  When a circus tent pops up outside his apartment, he compares his own experiences of being visibly disabled to that of the circus freak.

Davenport presents the world exactly how he sees it from his chair, but not how he sees it.  It is generally a static picture, without judgment on the rest of the world.  Many shots are rolling pictures of the ground or subway tiles.  The narrative itself is fractured and unfocused.

A film with this subject matter is rife with potential, but it just completely misses the mark.  Nothing is gleaned from watching it, besides the insight into the man himself.  A prime example of missed potential. (2.5/5.0)

Girl Picture
dir. Alli Haapasalo

Best friends Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) and Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen) are looking for different things.  Mimmi has no desire for love while Rönkkö can’t understand why she can’t get pleasure from all the men in her life.  The entrance of a tightly wound ice skater Sanna (Oona Airola) sets the friends towards unlikely paths of love and self-discovery.

It’s so refreshing to find a film with this level of trust in an audience.  Despite Mimmi and Rönkkö being best friends, they have their own lives which are not expected to be completely shared at all times.  They can be separate and still enjoy themselves.  Much like Booksmart, the friends get each other on a level others don’t.  Being seen is a major theme.  There is much less comedy in this film, but the comparison still applies.

All three actresses are superb.  They are flaky, fun, and unsure of what they want in life – like actual teenagers.  All their experiences are memories instead of after-school specials.  Nothing feels permanent.  Without a doubt, my favorite film at the festival thus far. (4.5/5.0)

dir. Andrew Semans

Margaret (Rebecca Hall) has a great job and a great life with her daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman), who is about to go to college. Suddenly, she sees a man from her past, David (Tim Roth), in random places. As she begins to unravel, she must confront her demons to protect her daughter from the horrors of her past.

I cannot state this enough: Rebecca Hall is remarkable. The choices she makes in this film are all perfect and seem singular to what she can do. Even as something as deepening the pitch of her voice is monumentally powerful. Roth is pure slime in a deeply difficult role. His charisma is necessary to make this man believable, even when the story stretches believability.

Fans of white-knuckle psychological thrillers will be in for a treat. Go in as blind as possible and let Hall and the film mesmerize you. You definitely won’t forget it. (4.0/5.0)

You Won’t Be Alone
dir. Goran Stolevski

In an isolated mountain village in Macedonia, a witch desires a mother’s child for blood. The woman makes a deal that she can have her when she turns 15. The mother takes her child to a cave and raises her without civilization. Despite her promise, the witch returns and turns the girl into a witch as well. The girl gains the ability to live in the lives of other bodies and experiences what it’s like to experience humanity.

Though initially presented as Scandinavian folk horror, the film has much loftier goals. It’s as if Terrence Malick decided to make a narratively straightforward film but still had most of his existentialism while gazing at the wonders of nature. Themes of humanity, love, affection, gender roles, and the roles in a society abound.

Things get pretty gory, but it never feels exploitative or superfluous. While it takes a bit to get there, a story about a body-switching witch turns into a surprisingly sensitive view of experiencing life and all it entails. (3.5/5.0)

We Need to Talk About Cosby
dir. W. Kamau Bell

For 50 years, Bill Cosby was the face of Black excellence in America. Between his work as a standup comedian, philanthropy, and a constant presence on television, Cosby gained the reputation as “America’s Dad.” All the while, he was drugging and assaulting women. Director W. Kamau Bell talks to people who were there and victims about the man and how they reconcile his good with all the bad.

The documentary doesn’t miss any aspect of the conversation. The meaning of Cosby to Black America, rape culture, victim-blaming, journalism, separating art from the artist, and everything in-between. A number of victims were interviewed with sensitivity and room to breathe. Bell gives his opinion, but clearly states that it is his. Facts are presented and opinions are stated clearly. The sheer amount of material it took to get into all this is staggering. A monumental achievement.

Broken into four one-hour episodes, this documentary is essential viewing. Bell misses no detail and leaves no stone unturned. The best long-length documentary since O.J.: Made in America (4.5/5.0)

Day four is in the books. I’ll be back for the final day next week as well as the award winners.

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