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Sundance 2024 Preview

The 2024 Sundance Film Festival starts tomorrow! It feels like just yesterday that we wrapped up the last one, but here we go again. 2023 was such a great year so it has a lot to live up to. Not all years are created equal, but I hope this year has just as many gems. Here are the ten films from the festival I'm the most excited about.

10. THELMA



SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: When 93-year-old Thelma Post gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, she sets out on a treacherous quest across the city to reclaim what was taken from her.


Inspired by a real-life experience of writer-director Josh Margolin’s own centenarian grandmother, Thelma puts a clever spin on movies like Mission: Impossible, shining the spotlight on an elderly grandmother as an unlikely action hero. With affectionate humor, Margolin employs the familiar tropes of the action genre in hilarious, age-appropriate ways to tackle themes of aging, mortality, and human frailty. In the first leading film role of her over 70-year career, Oscar-nominated veteran character actor June Squibb portrays the strong-willed Thelma with grit and determination, demonstrating that she is more than capable of taking care of business  despite what her daughter Gail (Parker Posey), son-in-law Alan (Clark Gregg), or loving grandson Danny (Fred Hechinger) might believe.—BT


WHY I'M INTERESTED: If anyone can pull off this role and make this movie work it's June Squibb. She has such great comic timing and can definitely elevate any material she's in. This is most certainly the type of movie that could go either way depending on execution, but I'm optimistic it can be a fun one.


9. LOVE ME


SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: Long after humanity’s extinction, a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love.


As filmmakers Sam & Andy demonstrate in their wildly imaginative debut feature, telling the love story of a smart buoy and an orbiting satellite that spans a billion years and probes the mysteries of being and consciousness requires legit storytelling dexterity. Love Me’s whimsically philosophical, shape-shifting structure ingeniously weaves together the real, the virtual, and the surreal. Its star-crossed, web-paired metallic protagonists — inhabited in different forms by Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun — awkwardly navigate romance and companionship, equipped only with untold petabytes of archived web data, social media, and online videos. Awash in these mediated experiences and fabricated expressions of love and identity, they yearn to understand who they are, whether their feelings are real, and for that matter, whether they are real.—JN


WHY I'M INTERESTED: I've learned that sci-fi films are usually the most unpredictable with Sundance, yet they always intrigue me the most. Love Me could go a thousand ways, but I’m encouraged by the pairing of Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun and am very intrigued as to how they pair in this off-the-wall sci-fi romance. 


8. A DIFFERENT MAN


SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: Aspiring actor Edward undergoes a radical medical procedure to drastically transform his appearance. But his new dream face quickly turns into a nightmare, as he loses out on the role he was born to play and becomes obsessed with reclaiming what was lost.

Writer-director Aaron Schimberg’s latest film is a surreal, singular tale of one man’s desire to self-actualize. Sebastian Stan is Edward, a man overcome by the reality of his appearance, intent on curing his alienation and transcending his self- and socially enforced artistic potential. Adam Pearson and Renate Reinsve carefully embody foils to Edward’s ambition, an artistic and philosophical juxtaposition of his, and our, conceits.


Through a haunting score and folkloric magical realism, a unique psychological thriller emerges. A stylish vision of the theatrical currents of New York stages a universe where reality and fiction blend in beautiful ways; where lies, expectations, and internal turmoil weave a man’s consequentially incipient senses of truth and becoming. A Different Man is a reflexive allegory for the modern tortured artist, a subversive, gothic fairytale that deftly begets obsession.—CA


WHY I'M INTERESTED: Sebastian Stan always chooses the most interesting indie projects and this one sounds really interesting. There are a lot of ways to tell a story like this, whether it leans into the absurd and is comedic, or if it winds up being more contemplative. Either way, I’m curious to find out. 


7. KRAZY HOUSE

SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: When Russian workers in Bernie’s house turn out to be wanted criminals, Bernie has to man up and save his ’90s sitcom family.


In their hotly anticipated English-language debut, Dutch directing duo Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil (New Kids) spare no one, unleashing a deliriously fucked-up ode to the sanctity of family that consistently outdoes itself. Taking a studio audience–approved world and nuking it from the inside, Haars and van der Kuil bless us with their demented sense of humor and depravity. Nick Frost embodies Bernie Christian with zest, doing justice to his last name as a meek, devout head of household who’s suddenly forced into a bloodcurdling, jaw-dropping crusade when his spiritual foundations fail; Alicia Silverstone matches his madness as his gleefully mischievous wife. Miraculous in its very existence and gloriously unhinged, Krazy House begs to be seen to be believed.—AS 


WHY I'M INTERESTED: The premise of this sounds so totally wacky, but honestly seeing the clip Alicia Silverstone posted to her Instagram the other day had me sold. Nick Frost is so funny, and the world has been in desperate need of a really good horror comedy. I’m hopeful this one delivers the goods. 


6. THE OUTRUN


SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: After living life on the edge in London, Rona attempts to come to terms with her troubled past. She returns to the wild beauty of Scotland’s Orkney Islands — where she grew up — hoping to heal. Adapted from the bestselling memoir by Amy Liptrot.


Nora Fingscheidt’s poignant adaptation of Amy Liptrot’s fearless memoir details the author’s liberation from drug and alcohol addiction, a triumph forged on the enchanted, wind-battered coasts of her childhood home. The Outrun traces Rona’s false starts and setbacks on the road to recovery through harrowing flashbacks to her downward spiral in London and her reckoning with reality in a strict rehab program. But Fingscheidt is more concerned with Rona’s final destination — deliverance from personal demons through transcendent communion with nature. Grounded in local lore and rich with Liptrot’s journalistic digressions on the land and its life-forms, The Outrun artfully ties Rona’s healing to her growing environmental stewardship. Four-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan gives a heartbreaking, humane performance that moves from woozy self-annihilation to serene calm.—MC


WHY I'M INTERESTED: Put Saoirse Ronan in anything and I will watch! This sounds like a different kind of role for her and I’m really interested in what she does with it. Anything that has the possibility of getting her close to that Oscar right?


5. IN A VIOLENT NATURE


SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: The enigmatic resurrection, rampage, and retribution of an undead monster in a remote wilderness.


In his directorial feature debut, Chris Nash skillfully flips the slasher genre on its head by shifting the perspective from the victims to the killer with haunting effect. In A Violent Nature upends a formulaic mainstay featured within horror films for decades, minimizing familiar tropes to inject new life into the genre. Instead of dwelling alongside promiscuous young people in a remote forest cabin before they get what’s coming to them, the film keeps their unsuspecting voices in the distance as we follow a maniacal murderer trudging through the woods to stalk his prey. Infusing inventive kills with generous amounts of gore, Nash is methodical in his approach, setting an ominous and ambient tone that will linger within your psyche for a long time to come.—AM 


WHY I'M INTERESTED: The description of this one was so intriguing to me. Not often do we get the killer's perspective in horror (the only example I can think of is from Tucker and Dale vs Evil which does so in a comedic fashion). But I love the idea of turning the trope on its head and hope this one will be one of the breakout horror films from the festival


4. THE MOOGAI


SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: A young Aboriginal couple bring home their second baby. What should be a joyous time takes a sinister turn as the mother starts seeing a malevolent spirit she is convinced is trying to take her baby.


Adapted from his award-winning short and made with the producers of The Babadook and Talk to Me, Jon Bell’s debut feature draws from Indigenous lore for a thematically rich supernatural tale that quickly establishes the lurking menace of a child-stealing spirit. Its simmering suspense empathetically builds around the fragile psychology of a new mother, blurring the lines between exhaustion, paranoia, and postpartum depression. In exacerbating her isolation and hopelessness, Bell shrewdly accentuates traditional tools of oppression to reveal a darker allusion to Australia’s stolen generations  the tens of thousands of First Nations children forcibly removed from their families through the government’s assimilation policies  which the filmmaker calls a “massive wound in the psyche of Australia.” The Moogai bears its terrifying resonance out of sublimated trauma.—JN


WHY I'M INTERESTED: Australian horror can go either way at Sundance with the incredible to the disappointing, what gives me hope about this one is seeing that the Sundance programmers had a good consensus that this one leaves you spooked. The plot has all the potential to be great and hopefully, it will be.


3. HANDLING THE UNDEAD



SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: On a hot summer day in Oslo, the newly dead awaken. Three families faced with loss try to figure out what this resurrection means and if their loved ones really are back. Based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist.


Reuniting Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie (The Worst Person in the World, 2022 Sundance Film Festival), Handling the Undead is a visually expansive experience, full of arresting images and subtle performances that collapse the space between the living and the dead. Director Thea Hvistendahl’s steady directorial hand leaves her characters room to breathe, to mediate the moral gray area, letting the minutiae of grief lead them as they feel their way through an extraordinary circumstance. Hvistendahl’s interpretation of Lindqvist’s novel addresses daunting questions about the body, the soul, loss, and moving on, pushing viewers to get to the root of reanimation: What would you do, and how would you feel, if someone you loved returned?


WHY I'M INTERESTED: I absolutely loved The Worst Person in the World so I'm so excited to see Anders Danielsen Lie and Renate Reinsve work together again. I had not previously known about this novel, but it sounds incredibly intriguing.


2. PRESENCE


SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: A family moves into a suburban house and becomes convinced they’re not alone.


In every project of his legendary career as a director, producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, and editor, Steven Soderbergh has brought a vital energy, curiosity, and unique vision to storytelling that has few parallels in filmmaking history. Following groundbreaking work like sex, lies, and videotape (1989 Sundance Film Festival, Audience Award: Dramatic) and The Girlfriend Experience (2009 Sundance Film Festival), he returns to Park City with a film shot entirely in one location that will haunt audiences with its otherworldly story and constantly awe-inspiring visuals. Working from a taut, mysterious script by David Koepp and featuring an exciting cast of known actors and newcomers, Presence is a thrilling cinematic ride that reifies Soderbergh’s status as an icon of American independent film.—SS


WHY I'M INTERESTED: No one does paranoia quite like Steven Soderbergh. Not all of his projects always land for me, but he’s still the type of filmmaker that I’m always excited keen in seeing what he’s up to, and this particular movie seems tailor-made to all of his strengths. Plus Lucy Liu is great and I hope this is a meaty role for her. 


1. HIT MAN


SUNDANCE SYNOPSIS: A strait-laced professor discovers his hidden talent as a fake hit man. He meets his match in a client who steals his heart and ignites a powder keg of deception, delight, and mixed-up identities. Inspired by an unbelievable true story.


In Richard Linklater’s enjoyable comedy noir, Hit Man, which premiered at the 2023 Venice Film Festival, Gary Johnson (Glen Powell) might at first seem like a geeky philosophy professor — and he most certainly is one. But don’t be fooled by his scholarly appearance, quiet life, and cats named Id and Ego. There are many sides to Gary’s personality, thanks to Powell’s and Linklater’s witty script — and arguably, the former’s most versatile and charming performance to date.  

Gary’s shape-shifting life is turned upside down by a meet-cute with a damsel in distress. But just as with the character of Gary, under layers of physical comedy and goofy humor, Linklater plants questions about identity and self, as well as the idea that, to some extent, we are all performing our roles.—AT

WHY I'M INTERESTED: Ever since the rave reviews at TIFF, this movie has been at the top of my anticipated movies list. I adore Richard Linklater and Glen Powell just has so much charisma. He deserves to be a star and I hope this is as amazing a vehicle for him as everyone has been saying. I can’t wait to see for myself 


This year will be more challenging for me to get as many films in as usual, but I'll do what I can so be sure to check back throughout the fest for all of my reviews.

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