Sundance Film Festival 2022 Recap: Day Four

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the most well-known and renowned film festivals in the United States that feature the best that the indie film scene has to offer. The 2022 Sundance Film Festival has finally kicked off with a plethora of films from a wide range of locations, statuses and casts of characters. Day four had five films tapped for me with a wide range of genres, themes with multiple positives and negatives alike.

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande: Directed by: Sophie Hyde

SYNOPSIS: Follows Nancy Stokes, a 55 year-old widow who is yearning for some adventure, human connection and some sex, good sex.

This film lives and dies with the chemistry of our leads, Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack. Both are absolutely delightful, Thompson bringing this sort of sweet anxiety to her role with McCormack bringing a suave confidence. They work as polar opposites, but as they say, opposites attract. As a film about sex, this is the furtherest thing from a film about sex. This is a film about our characters coming to terms with themselves and unpacking emotions that they have never unpacked before. Charming, emotional and so effortless.

I am a huge fan of the writing of this film. As discussed before, this is a character study of sex, self-worth and body image, but past that, this is a film about confronting ones fears, overcoming your past and blazing a trail forward. Katy Brand creates a beautiful piece of writing that thrives in the one location style of filmmaking. Conversations based but not dull. Smart, witty and just all together excellent. The writing flows together very well with the direction from Sophie Hyde who is able to make that one location always interesting, never boring and captivating. Everything works well here. This is the perfect combination of performance, writing, direction and technical. 

Point Breakdown

15 for Writing: 13

15 for Performances: 12

10 for Entertainment: 8

10 for Direction: 9

10 for Emotions: 8

5 for Cinematography: 3

5 for Score: 4

5 for Pacing: 4

15 for Technical: 12

5 for Rewatchability: 4

5 for Automatic: 5

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande: 82/100 | Grade: B-

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Dual: Directed by: Riley Stearns

SYNOPSIS: A terminally ill woman opts for a cloning procedure to ease her loss on her friends and family. When she makes a miraculous recovery, her attempts to have her clone decommissioned fail and lead to a court-mandated duel to the death.

This is not Swan Song, I can tell you that much, and that’s great. This film has a completely different tone, covers semi the same themes, but takes it to completely different genres. As a dark comedy, this film takes on the task of both examining the themes of humanity and identity while also being hilarious at the same time. The writing is witty, well timed and so so odd. Riley Stearns balanced the line between drama and comedy so perfectly, timing the comedic moments at the perfect times. I have some issues with the abrupt nature of the ending, but the rest of the writing is very solid overall.

We gotta talk about the performances. This film is going to be highly divisive, especially around the performances and I can totally understand that. Karen Gillian gave an incredibly bland and robotic type of outing, but I absolutely loved that. We all know Gillian has phenomenal acting chops. This was absolutely in the writing. She gives the exact performance Stearns wanted and I think it worked incredibly well with the material. Coupled with another insanely robotic but unique performance from Aaron Paul, you get some really nice outings. I really enjoyed my time with this film.

Point Breakdown:

15 for Writing: 12

15 for Performances: 13

10 for Entertainment: 8

10 for Direction: 9

10 for Emotions: 8

5 for Cinematography: 5

5 for Score: 4

5 for Pacing: 5

15 for Technical: 13

5 for Rewatchability: 5

5 for Automatic: 5

Dual: 87/100 | Grade: B+

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Palm Trees and Power Lines: Directed by: Jamie Dack

SYNOPSIS: A disconnected teenage girl named Lea enters a relationship with a man twice her age. Lea sees him as the solution to all her problems, but his intentions are not what they seem.

I’m going to keep this one brief because this was probably the most forgettable film of the festival so far. There is a very captivating performance from Lily McInerny embedded within the film, but that is really as far as it goes. The writing is incredibly bland and unmotivated and the pacing lags on and on. The writing does one thing right, makes you feel uncomfortable, but I cannot tell whether that is the actual writing or the situation that we are seeing. Nevertheless, extremely uncomfortable and just not very good. 

Point Breakdown:

15 for Writing: 8

15 for Performances: 10

10 for Entertainment: 6

10 for Direction: 7

10 for Emotions: 9

5 for Cinematography: 3

5 for Score: 3

5 for Pacing: 4

15 for Technical: 10

5 for Rewatchability: 3

5 for Automatic: 5

Palm Trees and Power Lines: 68/100 | Grade: D+

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Emily the Criminal: Directed by: John Patton Ford

SYNOPSIS: Emily, who is down on her luck and saddled with debt gets involved in a credit card scam that pulls her into the criminal underworld of Los Angeles, ultimately leading to deadly consequences.

I was instantly hooked on seeing this film with the prospect of seeing Aubrey Plaza flex her acting alone. She is the best part of this film. She flexes her always evident sarcasm throughout while also proving that she has major acting chops when it comes to the drama genre. The other performances are pretty effective as well, I tend to enjoy Theo Rossi in this film. Maybe I’m biased because I loved him in Sons of Anarchy, but I still think he was pretty good. There is nothing extremely compelling about the supporting performances, they are all rather run of the mill, but without Plaza, this film wouldn’t work nearly as well.

I really enjoyed the writing of this film on all levels. The comedy hits, a lot of that thanks to Plaza’s performance. I wouldn’t classify this as a dark comedy, but there is nothing light about it at all. I think the thing that is the most effective and works the best is the balance between those lights and darks. The ability to shift from comedy to drama is so seamless and comfortable that it works. The story is incredibly compelling and takes you through a deep and twisted through line while also being a grounded and simple story at the core.

Point Breakdown:

15 for Writing: 11

15 for Performances: 12

10 for Entertainment: 8

10 for Direction: 8

10 for Emotions: 7

5 for Cinematography: 4

5 for Score: 4

5 for Pacing: 5

15 for Technical: 14

5 for Rewatchability: 5

5 for Automatic: 5

Emily the Criminal: 83/100 | Grade: B-

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

892: Directed by: Abi Damaris Corbin

SYNOPSIS: When Brian Brown-Easley’s disability check fails to materialize from Veterans Affairs, he finds himself on the brink of homelessness and breaking his daughter’s heart. No other options, he walks into a Wells Fargo Bank and says, “I’ve got a bomb.”

I was very excited to give this film a watch. The concept is intriguing, the cast, especially John Boyega caught my eye and the overall group involved had me invested. Of course you all know how much I love based on true story films as well. This film works due to two key factors. Firstly, two performances from John Boyega and Michael Kenneth Williams. Boyega is phenomenal in this film, towing the line between insanity and just being someone who is scared. Williams is just someone who wants to help. Both are commanding and work well with each other.

The performances are the best part of this film but the script is pretty powerful as well. The tension was never too much or too little, towing the line between insanity and calm. The moments were impactful and the conversations were meaningful. This was a simple story that packed a punch and told a story that needed to be told. In the end, this is a run of the mill drama that has some really impactful performances that tells a story that needed to be spread.

Point Breakdown:

15 for Writing: 12

15 for Performances: 14

10 for Entertainment: 8

10 for Direction: 8

10 for Emotions: 8

5 for Cinematography: 4

5 for Score: 4

5 for Pacing: 3

15 for Technical: 12

5 for Rewatchability: 4

5 for Automatic: 5

892: 82/100 | Grade: B-

Jack Lautaret is a banana meter approved film critic, the founder of the Jack Lautaret YouTube Channel and host of the Finatic Film Review Podcast. He is a member of the Online Film and Television Association. Twitter: @JackLautaret

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