Best of Fest: Sundance 2022 Wrap Up
Sundance 2022 is officially a wrap and I have to say, this was a pretty solid year. I pretty much got to see everything I was wanting to see, though I heard great things about Good Luck To You, Leo Grand as well as Living. Both were picked up for distribution, so I look forward to seeing them both when they hit theaters and/or streaming. But, in case you were wondering what my absolute favorites were that I saw this year, I compiled my top ten right here of this year's fest.
10. PALM TREES AND POWER LINES
Okay so, this was probably the hardest film of the whole festival to watch, and I'll be totally honest...it was not an enjoyable experience by any stretch of the imagination. This film about an underage girl and her much older suitor who grooms her is not the type of movie anyone will find to be an entertaining breezy experience. I felt sick to my stomach the entire time I was watching, and even afterward I couldn't shake the queasiness. But after viewing the film, it stayed with me and haunted me. It is so heavy, yet powerful. Palm Trees and Power Lines might not be a pleasant film, but it is a necessary one that acts as a really good cautionary tale of how one might be manipulated with the promise of love and security. You can find my full recap of my thoughts on Palm Trees and Power Lines HERE
9. AM I OK?
Dakota Johnson had such a strong showing this year at Sundance in two of the most acclaimed films of the festival. Here, she plays Lucy a woman in her 30's who is finally coming to terms with her sexuality just as her best friend Jane is moving overseas to London. I felt her struggles seemed completely real and she played her character with honesty and depth. While not everything in the friendship felt believable (particularly their conflicts with one another), I still appreciated what ultimately this film was going for and its celebration of female friendship. Also, while many films at the festival this year were pretty serious in tone, I really enjoyed how lighthearted this was. You can find my full recap of Am I Ok? HERE
Dual definitely wasn't for everyone as it was a bit of an acquired taste, but I loved the deadpan dark humor surrounding this completely absurd scenario. This will likely be a love or hate it film once it reaches a wider audience, but I totally dug all of it from its wacky premise to its wry dialogue. Karen Gillan carries the film on her shoulders with her pitch-perfect delivery, though I must admit I definitely would have loved more Aaron Paul as well who plays her fight coach. More thoughts on Dual in my full recap HERE
Horror comes in many different varieties, and the type that Hatching is happens to be one of my very favorites: schlocky entertaining body horror. But it also helps that Hatching has a great personal conflict at its core--young pre-teen Tinja constantly failing to achieve her mother's impossible standards of perfection. Hatching features great use of practical effects and a really creepy creature design. The tension is all here and the pacing never once detracts from it. Hatching is a perfect coming-of-age horror allegory. Full recap for Hatching can be found HERE.
6. EMILY THE CRIMINAL
The Aubrey Plaza led crime thriller Emily the Criminal was the perfect film to close the festival out on a high. While it doesn't break the mold, it is solidly entertaining from start to finish. Plaza is so good in this role and gives her character depth that in the hands of a lesser actress might not have had nearly the same impact. I'll be interested in the reaction to this one when a wider audience gets to see it, as I think this tale focusing on the other side of credit card fraud was certainly one of the more accessible films of the festival. Full recap of Emily the Criminal HERE
Rebecca Hall gives us yet another amazing, unforgettable performance that left me stunned in Resurrection. Like Dual, this portrayal of one woman's trauma from a past relationship is not going to be for everyone. But it was definitely for me! For a festival that had endless WTF moments, the ones here left me in awe the most. Resurrection straddles the line between drama, thriller, and horror so well that when it's over you're honestly not sure what it is you just watched. All you're sure of is that it is all kinds of messed up. Full recap of Resurrection HERE
4. AFTER YANG
Though it has a futuristic, sci-fi plot After Yang is so grounded in the simplicities and beauty of everyday life. It's quiet and contemplative, and it's not trying to blow your mind with anything outrageous or out of this world, but rather the small things that make up our lives that we often take for granted. It reminded me a lot of one of my favorites from the 2020 festival, Nine Days. After Yang is an absolutely lovely film and the most uplifting film I saw at this year's fest. I also would love to be able to listen to its gorgeous piano score, like yesterday. Read my full recap on After Yang HERE
Emergency is a film that successfully and impressively seems to have its cake and eats it too. For a film that deals with such a very serious situation, director Carey Williams is able to pull off a comedic element completely effortlessly. RJ Cyler and Donald Elise Watkins sell this friendship the film is built around and their rapport really invests you in their fate. But, as entertaining as Emergency was throughout, it wouldn't really work or come together the way it does without its very powerful ending. As a viewer, you are able to see their experience and understand the level of privilege they are denied when it comes to being given the benefit of the doubt. Living the characters' worst nightmares with them is truly impactful. Full recap of Emergency HERE
The more I've thought about Fresh through the course of the festival, the more I totally love it. The setup is absolutely perfect as is the chemistry between Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones. Both are completely committed here and the movie is all the better for it. While I still wish it had a bit stronger of a finale, I still totally respect how daring and unflinching it is all throughout. I did not see any of it coming and movies that surprise me always do well in my book. Full recap of Fresh HERE
1. CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH
Cha Cha Real Smooth eked it out to be my favorite movie of 2022's Sundance Film Festival, and really it's no shock here. Cooper Raiff's sophomore feature about a recent college graduate trying to find his place in the world was like a (500) Days of Summer lite only with less whimsy and more reality. Both protagonists in each respective film are believers in true love and soulmates, and they have been ever since they were children. Right from the beginning, I knew what a treat as young Andrew's quest for love is shown as the first of many disappointments. Cooper Raiff plays Andrew with wide-eyed optimism, even if he's not where he wants to be right now with his life. Sparks fly for him when he meets Domino (Dakota Johnson), a young single mother with an autistic teenager. Cha Cha Real Smooth was so endearing, heartfelt, and poignant. It's the type of movie that made me fall in love with Sundance in the first place and the type of movie I can see myself telling people about all year long. Full recap of Cha Cha Real Smooth HERE
Honestly, this was a really solid year as many of the other films I saw could have easily taken a spot on this list. But with this, my Sundance coverage of the 2022 season is officially over! But believe it or not, that's not all I have to write about Sundance. Come back later this week to see my ten-year retrospective of my favorite movies I've ever seen during my now decade of attendance.