Friday, 1 June 2018

Sundance London: Build a happy home

The 6th Sundance Film Festival: London kicked off on Thursday night at Picturehouse Central. This brief festival only runs for three days, as the Park City festival programmers bring 13 films and two programmes of shorts to London audiences. Annoyingly, I had already planned a holiday for the first half of this week, so I missed all of the press screenings and will be unable to see virtually all of the films as I usually do. I'll have to make due with those I've already seen, and the ones I can catch at busy public screenings over the weekend. Here's the first set of highlights from this year's programme...

dir-scr Ari Aster; with Toni Collette, Alex Wolff 19/US ****.
Writer-director Ari Aster makes his feature debut with a boldly original premise that builds involving character drama as it thoroughly freaks out the audience. The horror climax may be somewhat hysterical, but the journey there features first-rate acting from the entire cast, plus skilfully controlled filmmaking that creates a terrifying experience that's both darkly emotional and delightfully bonkers.

First Reformed 
dir-scr Paul Schrader; with Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried 17/US ***
Paul Schrader once again takes a provocative look at religion in America in this dark and twisty drama that has all kinds of repercussions in today's headlines, from climate change to extremism. Anchored by very strong performances, the film gets increasingly intense as it continues, implying in unmistakable ways that it's headed for something awful. Although Schrader himself seems unsure about where he wanted it to go... FULL REVIEW >

The Miseducation of Cameron Post 
dir Desiree Akhavan; with Chloe Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr 18/US ****
There's an almost eerie honesty to this teen drama, which makes it feel bracingly current even though it's set 25 years ago. With naturalistic performances and a topic that has become uncomfortably timely all over again, the film worms its way under the skin. Based on a novel by Emily Danforth, director-cowriter Desiree Akhavan gives the film an autobiographical tone, which adds a proper kick of resonance.

Films That Made Me
Three filmmakers whose work is featured in the Sundance London programme have selected the movies that inspired them. And they are introducing special screenings at the festival...

  • Debra Granik (Leave No Trace) presents Celine Sciamma's stunningly original, moving and insightful coming-of-age drama Girlhood (2014) from France... SHADOWS' ORIGINAL REVIEW > 
  • Desiree Akhavan (The Miseducation of Cameron Post) brings Morvern Callar (2002), Lynne Ramsey's bleakly brilliant drama starring Samantha Morton... ORIGINAL REVIEW > 
  • Jennifer Fox (The Tale) chooses Tarnation (2004), Jonathan Caouette's astonishing kaleidoscope of an autobiographical documentary... ORIGINAL REVIEW >

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