Sundance 2023 Day 4 Recap
The first weekend of Sundance is now in the books and the movies keep coming! I watched five movies yesterday, so it's been a bit more challenging to keep up with the blogging. But now I can scratch off Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Kinda Feel Left Out, Other People's Children, Fairyland, Polite Society, and In My Mother's Skin from my Sundance watchlist.
ALIENS ABDUCTED MY PARENTS
AND NOW I KINDA FEEL LEFT OUT
Itsy (Emma Tremblay) and her younger brother Evan (Kenneth Cummins) have just moved to a new town with their parents in the middle of nowhere. It's a big change from their life in the city, and teenaged Itsy would do anything to get back to her old life. When new classmate Heather suggests they team up to write an article for a chance at a scholarship to NYU, Itsy can't agree too fast. The only catch is that Itsy befriends the weird kid in town Calvin (Jacob Buster) who believes his family was abducted by aliens. While Itsy is initially skeptical of Calvin's claims, she can't help but be drawn in by his sincerity and warmth, and the two become very close. Calvin's sure he can prove his story to Itsy and authenticate the existence of aliens since the comet he believes attracts them is coming back to earth imminently.
Aliens is a surprisingly sweet and sincere teenage rom-com. There are a few scenes toward the end that had so much heart and emotion, I actually found myself getting choked up. The ending keeps the film from being great because it settles for something pretty goofy, while the rest of the tone had been so grounded. Emma Tremblay and Jacob Buster were both delightful though and did a great job at selling some of the more difficult scenes. Overall, Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Kinda Feel Left Out was delightfully refreshing.
OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN
Other People's Children is the story of a woman named Rachel (Virginie Efira) whose years have gotten away from her. She finds herself at 40 years old, wanting to be a mother but seeing her window closing very rapidly. When she begins dating single parent Ali (Roschdy Zem), his four-year-old daughter Leila (Callie Ferreira-Goncalves) becomes a big part of Rachel's life. Rachel finds herself happily taking on all the motherly responsibilities for Leila, and discovers the role suits her. But Rachel finds that performing the duties of a mother without being one, leads to a lot of investment without the same reward.
Other People's Children feels like a breezy French film about a woman thrown into parenting until it becomes something much deeper. I didn't realize how invested I was in it until it broke my heart. Virginie Efira gives a magnetic performance and wears so much emotion in her expressions. Rachel's story feels common, messy, and deeply sad. It's a story that rings true for many women and it is carefully and beautifully told.
Fairyland tells the tale of Alysia Abbott, a young girl (Nessa Dougherty) whose mother unexpectedly passes away in a car crash. It's the 1970's and Alysia's father Steve (Scoot McNairy) decides with his wife's passing that now is the time for him to live freely as a gay man and moves him and his daughter to San Francisco. He spends much of Alysia's childhood absent, hooking up and doing drugs while trying to teach his daughter some independence and to be accepting and loving of everyone. Later, an adult Alysia (Emilia Jones) must examine and reconcile the complicated feelings she has about the upbringing she wished she had, with knowing who her father is and what he could handle.
Fairyland overcomes a bit of a slow and repetitive start to become a solid coming-of-age tale, even if at times it feels a little predictable. I do feel that I wish more introspection had been given and a more nuanced conclusion given than what we were shown with regard to Alysia's childhood. While we can give grace to our parents for doing their best, we can still recognize when they made mistakes and the film feels like it absolves Steve a lot when the situation is far more complex. Still, Emilia Jones and Scoot McNairy give great performances here and make Fairyland worth watching.
Two sisters are torn apart when older sister Lena gives up her dreams of being an artist to marry the handsome and rich Salim. Younger sister and aspiring stunt woman Ria, knows there's no way this could be true love since the two have only been dating a month and she tries to make Lena come to her senses. Lena is determined to pursue the relationship, so Ria makes it her personal mission to stop at nothing to sabotage the wedding and save her sister from herself.
Polite Society is wildly funny and an absolute blast. I was hooked right from the start with its Scott Pilgrim vs the World-type antics. Yet the film has a humor and style all its own. The film is almost always captivating, save for losing a bit of steam midway through. But it bounces back with one of the most hilarious and entertaining finales in recent memory. Performances all across the board are excellent and the direction is top-notch for everything this film tries and succeeds in accomplishing. See it as soon as you can!
IN MY MOTHER'S SKIN
A young daughter seeks the help of a deceptively evil fairy in the horror selection In My Mother's Skin. With her mother violently sick and her father nowhere to be found, Tala is hopeless about her and her brother's fate and seeks a miracle. When she comes across this fairy, Tala trusts her to heal her mother and make their family whole again. But little does Tala know, this fairy does not have her best interests at heart and only seeks to destroy everything that Tala holds dear.
In My Mother's Skin is a hauntingly nightmarish dark fairy tale in the vein of Pan's Labyrinth. Its pacing is very slow, which coming off the heels of watching Polite Society was very jarring. I admit that watching the two of them back to back may have affected my viewing here and I'm eager to watch it again later in the year when it's released to a wider audience to see if my opinion of the film softens. The film's imagery is disturbing and visceral, yet I had a hard time feeling drawn in or invested in the characters, even if I felt the story was a good one. For some reason, I just failed to connect to this on a deeper level. Still, the atmosphere throughout is endlessly creepy--it's the stuff of nightmares and I won't be forgetting about it anytime soon.