Sundance 2022 Day 5 Recap
We're in the home stretch now having officially passed the halfway point of the festival. Most of the big premieres are out of the way, but we've still got so much ground to cover. Yesterday was my most packed movie day so I've got lots to say on After Yang, Summering, You Won't Be Alone, and Hatching.
In a not-so-distant future, human-looking robots live in households and essentially are as close as family members--such was the case of Yang, a robot who unexpectedly malfunctions leaving his human little sister he helped raise devastated. In the process of trying to get Yang repaired, the father of the household, Jake (Colin Farrell), learns that Yang had some spyware installed and had actually been recording every single thing he experienced. As he goes through viewing Yang's memories, Jake literally sees what life was like through Yang's eyes. He is able to appreciate the quiet beauties of life that he often takes for granted. After Yang is a very beautiful, understated, and contemplative film. Its pace is often slow, but its message is very rewarding and stays with you. The visual representation of Yang's memories is absolutely incredible to behold and the direction here is impeccable. Also noteworthy is the musical score which is the loveliest I've heard in a long time. RATING: 8/10
Summering follows four young girls during their last weekend of summer before they inevitably part ways once Junior High starts. I'll be honest to admit that Stand By Me is one of my cinematic blindspots, so I can't speak to the similarities with Summering, though I know that both of these plots revolve around kids finding a dead body. So I'm not sure how it was handled in Stand By Me, but the way these young girls react here is pretty much incomprehensible and their logic is impossible to make sense of...even if they are kids. But sadly, that's not the only problem Summering has. For one thing, it can't totally decide what kind of movie it wants to be. One moment it wants to be a whimsical fantasy, the next it wants to be horror, then it tries its hand at a coming of age adventure. Summering would work far better if it just committed to one genre instead of trying to do them all at once. Also, for a film about friendship, it really needed to focus way more on the relationships between all the characters. The few moments where it does (especially the mother/daughter moments) do work, but there's just not enough to earn what the movie is trying to sell. Half of the time these girls don't really feel like they're friends at all and individually the characters are not nearly as fleshed out as they should be. I had really high hopes for this one as coming-of-age stories for girls are not nearly as prevalent in film as they should be, but this one was unfortunately a disappointment and a huge missed opportunity. I did really like Eden Grace Redfield as Mari though, she was adorably precious. I think I would have much preferred a movie just focused on her and her relationship with her mom played by the always reliable Megan Mullally. Overall, Summering just can't overcome its weak script and sadly lackluster direction (James Ponsoldt, I was rooting for you!) despite these child actresses giving it their all. RATING: 4.5/10
YOU WON'T BE ALONE
About a week or two before Sundance, a trailer was released for You Won't Be Alone and it was absolutely phenomenal--portraying the film as the best folk horror movie since The Witch. Unfortunately, that trailer and the marketing for the film are going to do a lot of misleading to what this film is actually like. While it is rooted in horror being based on the life of a witch, there is very little horror to the film at all, apart from a lot of gore. It's actually more of a drama and an understanding of what it is like to be a human (which to me was much more effectively done in After Yang). While I think it's beautifully shot, and the lore here is really interesting--its constant pondering narration wore on me. I think there are a lot of really cool ideas here, but the movie felt an hour longer than it was and could really have benefited from a much tighter and more concise edit. Performances are strong all around and everyone brings the story to life, making it a mostly compelling watch. Still, a lot of parts drag on and I felt my patience getting low. It's hard to let go of expectations sometimes and I was seriously sad it wasn't scary in any way, still, I would have accepted it more for what it was had it been a bit more streamlined. RATING: 6.5/10
Tinja is a young girl struggling to achieve the perfection her lifestyle influencer mother often demands in Hatching. One day, she finds a mysterious egg out in the forest, and seeing it has no mother, brings it home to care for it. She soon discovers something terrifying inside, yet still feels a duty to continue to nourish it no matter how grotesque it may be. I won't say more than that, as it's best to go in not knowing a lot (there's a trailer out that I advise skipping since it shows too much). Hatching is one of the most uniquely strange horror movies of the festival, and yet I also found it endlessly watchable. Similar to The Babadook, this film goes the "horror as a metaphor" route, where you know the horror all means something deeper. But there are some genuinely creepy moments here and the film consistently builds up the tension nicely. Plus the body horror element in this is quite simply, fantastic. Seriously, a lot of chilling imagery that will stay with me for a long while. Unlike Summering, the coming of age meets horror works totally perfectly here because they really went all in. RATING: 7/10