A Short Ranking of the Films I Watched at Sundance 2022
Ever since writing my Best Of 2021 list, my brain has been in ranking mode with pretty much everything, but especially with films. So when, January 24th through 27th, I got to watch some excellent Sundance screenings, my mind automatically rated them from most impactful to least (even though I told it not to!). I always go into each Sundance season (heh, the two seasons I’ve been able to attend their virtual festival) fairly naive to what the line-up has to offer. I tend to take the last two days before tickets go on sale to read the film descriptions, but I try to stay away from learning who’s in them and who’s directing them in order to best introduce myself to something new. But then, of course, the closer it gets to screening-time, the reviews and articles of available films begin to trickle in. So, sadly, I’m fully aware I missed a lot of other great films this time around. BUT, the films I did get to watch were absolutely fantastic, so I’d imagine the entire line-up was pretty spectacular. Out of my very small Sundance 2022 experience, I’d like to share my brief reviews (spoiler-free!) of the films I enjoyed.*
*I was lucky to catch The Worst Person in the World outside of Sundance, so that film will not appear on this list.
5) Emily the Criminal
If you’re a fan of Aubrey Plaza (who was in the photo on the film’s ticket page, so I couldn’t ignore it), Emily the Criminal won’t disappoint. Both Plaza and the brief synopsis, of a woman with a record struggling with debt who gets sucked into an underworld of LA credit card scams, sold me on the film. Plaza plays Emily (who’s from Newark, NJ, and has an incredible accent) with integrity and empathy, so much so that you can’t help but root for her even while she burrows deeper and deeper into her crime spree. Director and writer, John Patton Ford, perfectly captures the current climate of America; one where a large percentage of millennials feel as if they’ll never be able to climb out of a hole of debt, especially if they’ve made even just one mistake in their life. Told in a brief hour and a half, Emily the Criminal moves at just fast enough of a pace that keeps you hooked on the drama while also giving you enough time to really empathize with the very few, and different, characters it presents. It paints LA in a completely fresh way, thus giving me better insight into a culture different from my own, which I think is a necessary feat at this point in time.
4) Meet Me in the Bathroom
Fashioned and inspired by Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 oral history of the same name that documents the rise of a new rock elite in New York from 2001 to 2011, Will Lovelace, Dylan Southern, and Andrew Cross’s Meet Me in the Bathroom gives the visuals to the soundtrack Goodman created. Sadly, the film only covers roughly a three-year span (the seminal years at the beginning of the book), but it truly soars in its ability to primarily tell the story of the NYC music scene with intimate, archival footage. With the help from band members from the likes of The Strokes, The Moldy Peaches, Interpol, TV on the Radio, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and LCD Soundsystem, Meet Me in the Bathroom acts as a perfect time capsule, not only of music at that time, but also of how the tragedy of September 11 changed NYC, and how those changes influenced so many crises today (including the ongoing gentrification/art discourse). While choosing to only cover these brief, tragic years helps to ground the film in a thematic manner, I can’t help thinking that I would have enjoyed this more as a limited series where the filmmakers could have completed the entire decade to help make the story of that time feel more like an LP rather than an EP. But I suppose if my main issue is that I wanted more of it, then that’s fairly tame as far as critique goes.
I bought a ticket to Resurrection fairly last-minute, during the festival, after Sundance had released more second-screening tickets (as opposed to premiere tickets) available to the public. It was already getting a lot of interesting reviews, and after Rebecca Hall’s recent, and well-deserved, upward career praise, critics were already signaling that her performance was going to be one to watch this year. Resurrection also boasts the talent of Tim Roth, so that’s a pretty winning pair and a difficult one to pass up. The short of Resurrection is that it follows Margaret (Hall), a single mom raising a soon-to-be-college-aged daughter who is well respected at work and seems to be, overall, on top of her game. But when she begins to notice David (Roth), a man from her past, popping up again in her life, things begin to fall apart. A sharp, psychological thriller written and directed by Andrew Semans, Resurrection takes turns you won’t expect and features an ending that stuck with me for days. It’s a film that has truly nestled in my brain, and I look forward to the discussion it prompts in this coming year.
2) The Janes
The underground, illegal-but-safe-abortion-providing ring of women in Chicago in the late 60’s/early 70’s, THE anonymous JANES, were honored with two films this year at Sundance. One is a fictional account starring Elizabeth Banks named Call Jane, and the other is a documentary by filmmakers Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes called The Janes. The Janes themselves are more than deserving of their recognition at this year’s festival. Similar to Meet Me in the Bathroom, The Janes features a decent amount of impressive archival footage, alongside a well-kept inventory of photographs and memorabilia (provided by the Janes), intercut with recent interviews of The Janes as they are now. These women (and a few, extremely lovable men - respect) tell the story of how Jane came to be and illustrate the path their organization took leading up to the decision made in Roe v. Wade. It’s a harrowing, detailed, inspiring story about community and basic human decency that is, tragically, just as timely now as it was then. These women are heroes, and The Janes is a necessary call to action.
1) You Won’t Be Alone
Easily the most haunting film at Sundance this year was Goran Stolevski’s You Won’t Be Alone. Written and directed by Stolevski, who is of Macedonian and Australian descent, You Won’t Be Alone is a foreign film that transcends spoken language. Set in a 19th-century Macedonian village, You Won’t Be Alone begins when a female infant is chosen for transformation by an ancient and foreboding spirit. This leads to the child, Nevena, being set on a path that is even more isolating than the act of damnation itself, up until the true revelations begin. In You Won’t Be Alone, one soul is portrayed by multiple actors, holding a magnifying glass to just how rich and complex human life can truly be. Not only does You Won’t Be Alone resonate on a deeply personal and emotional level, but the film is also truly stunning. With some of the most visually affecting character and set design in recent years, Stolevski and team make the otherworldly seem historically accurate. (And if you can avoid temptation, I advise you don’t watch the trailer for this one, as I think it paints the film in a different tone than the one I experienced.) While I truly enjoyed all of the Sundance films I watched this year, I’m most excited for the world to see this one. You Won’t Be Alone is a rare, one-of-a-kind film that touches something deep in your soul you didn’t know you had.
Bernadette graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Film Studies degree she’s not currently using. She constantly consumes television, film, and all things pop culture and will never be full. She doesn’t tweet much, but give her a follow @BeaGorman and see if that changes.