You thought the festival was over? Sundance Film Festival experienced many changes throughout the course of this year. When the yearly festival was announced, it was going to be in-person as well as maintain online screenings for selective films. However, weeks prior to the festival’s launch, the COVID-19 variant had other plans. Due to this, the festival made the switch to be completely virtual, making it accessible to the press and public through its easy-to-navigate user interface. In addition to my two previous film reviews from the festival, here are some more!
“After Yang” (2022) Dir: Kogonada
Almost four years after Kogonada debuted the wonderful meditative drama, “Columbus,” the South Korean filmmaker is back with a science-fiction tale. The film follows a family (played by Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith and Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) and their adopted robot, Yang (played by Justin H. Min). A mystery soon follows within the mind of Yang after his systems have crashed and are in need of repair. What always strikes me about Kogonada’s films is how he manages to find beauty in a depressing world. In “Columbus,” it follows a pair of friends discovering life’s meaning through architecture. In “After Yang,” Kogonada reaches new heights and offers themes of loneliness, the ability to feel within a body that cannot and how much family values one another. Similar to “Columbus,” “After Yang ” is a beautifully shot film that is even more well-crafted thanks to stunning effects work and minimalist world-building. Kogonada swings for the fences here it is almost a home run outside a few pacing issues that slog the film down within the second half. Kogonada tells the story of our world not too distant from now and continuously keeps it bleak, real and self-contained.
“Dual” (2022) Dir: Riley Stearns
There is something about Riley Stern’s energy to make dark comedy genre films that I find very fascinating. After surprising me with the hilarious “Art of Self-Defense,” Sterns returns with “Dual,” and no, it is not a remake of the Steven Spielberg classic. “Dual” stars Karen Gillan as a woman who finds out that she is stricken with a life-ending illness. In this world, her option is to clone herself in order for her family to keep her memory alive. However, after the illness is benign, she must fight to the death with her clone. While the story is fascinatingly presented and Karen Gillan is great as well as Aaron Paul, I found myself to be mixed on “Dual.” At times, the dialogue reaches the heights of a Yorgos Lanthimos film and at times tries to be a fun B movie cult film. This combined with the ill-conceived tone difference kept me confused, as well as an abrupt and unsatisfying ending that left me asking more questions than leaving with answers.
“Sharp Stick” (2022) Dir: Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham has left a divisive impact amongst people as of late. Through her allegations, she has seen herself in more work and now has created a directorial debut with “Sharp Stick.” The debut follows a young caretaker who has an affair with her employer and discovers her bound for lust and power. This film stars Denham, Jon Bernthal and Kristine Froseth. While I went in with moderate expectations, I could not tell you how much “Sharp Stick” annoyed me. From the shallow characterization to its creepy subject matter and meandering story, this film could not find a footing in terms of tone or thematics spread throughout. Sure, the acting is serviceable. In fact, Jon Bernthal is the best part of this film. However, beyond its surface-level narrative, there is nothing to offer and the story of lust for a naive girl continues.
Even though I saw a smaller amount of films at the festival unlike the plethora I was able to see last year, Sundance Film Festival truly is the prime place to be for any up-and-coming filmmaker or film critic to get your start. From small to large filmmakers presenting their work, these are people who offer meaningful advice, who are working in the industry themselves and are not afraid to answer those questions. Though the festival was virtual, hopefully someday I can experience the beautiful Sundance Film Festival in the wonderful Park City, Utah.