Sundance Snapshots: Marte Um, After Yang, Dual, Resurrection
Sundance 2022's slate offered up more than a few stories that were emotionally bold and impactful right out the gate. You never know which movies are going to have absolutely no regard for your emotions. Here are four titles from throughout in the festival, centering family, trauma, and uncertainty in unexpected ways, that made a definite impression.
Marte Um (Mars One)
Director: Gabriel Martins
Screenwriters: Gabriel Martins
Starring: Rejane Faria, Carlos Francisco, Camilla Damião, Cícero Lucas
Cinematographer: Leonardo Feliciano
Runtime: 115 minutes
Sundance Synopsis: The Martins family are optimistic dreamers, quietly leading their lives in the margins of a major Brazilian city following the disappointing inauguration of a far-right extremist president. A lower-middle-class Black family, they feel the strain of their new reality as the political dust settles. Tércia, the mother, reinterprets her world after an unexpected encounter leaves her wondering if she’s cursed. Her husband, Wellington, puts all of his hopes into the soccer career of their son, Deivinho, who reluctantly follows his father’s ambitions despite secretly aspiring to study astrophysics and colonize Mars. Meanwhile, their older daughter, Eunice, falls in love with a free-spirited young woman and ponders whether it’s time to leave home.
Gabriel Martins sets a slow pace; leaving his actors plenty of space to breathe. This superbly acted drama's held together by a talented ensemble that's surrounded by a satisfyingly realistic (and representative) array of secondary players. By offering a bird's-eye view of each family member's day-to-day (and their internal struggles), Martin dives into the the complexities of trying to growing (or survive) without growing away from one another. It's a pensive, yet hopeful, journey. Marte Um (Mars One) is a gem.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Haley Lu Richardson
Sundance Synopsis: When Yang — a lifelike, artificially intelligent android that Jake and Kyra buy as a companion for their adopted daughter — abruptly stops functioning, Jake just wants him repaired quickly and cheaply. But having purchased Yang “certified refurbished” from a now-defunct store, he’s led first to a conspiracy theorist technician and then a technology museum curator, who discovers that Yang was actually recording memories. Jake’s quest eventually becomes one of existential introspection and contemplating his own life, as it passes him by.
Writer/Director Kogonada understands that the futuristic can serve as a perfect frame for the quietly despondent and emotionally vibrant. Here, the technology acts as a soft component of this vivid backdrop and a gateway through which the audience becomes immersed in the narrative. For all the story's sadness it's just as hopeful a journey into what holds a a family together. This is a family in transition and watching them come to terms with the consequences of their unwitting choices. After Yang superbly translates the essence of loss, and the allegory about our dependence and attachment to technology at the heart of Weinstein's short story. Kogonada's sense of fun is readily apparent in what might be the best title sequence ever in a film. He's created an adaptation with heart and soul.
Director: Riley Stearns
Screenwriters: Riley Stearns
Starring: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale
Cinematographer: Michael Ragen
Runtime: 95 minutes
Sundance Synopsis: Recently diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease, Sarah is unsure how to process the news. To help ease her friends’ and family’s impending loss, she is encouraged to participate in a simple futuristic cloning procedure called “Replacement,” after which Sarah’s last days will be spent teaching the clone how to live on as Sarah once she’s gone. But while it takes only an hour for a clone to be made, things become significantly more challenging when that double is no longer wanted.
Dual relies on a deadpan wit and an off-kilter (and often stilted) delivery to tell the story of a tedious woman and the clone who forces her to reckon w/her mortality, quality of life, and value to her loved ones. Demonstrating the same deliberate narrative awkwardness that propelled his dark comedy The Art of Self-Defense Stearns builds a near future world that plays into our fears about being forgotten and disconnected. It's not a complete win but the understanded uncertainty married to a photography style that sets a brooding undertone slowly pulls you in. Karen Gillam, playing dual roles, is a disjointed mess perfectly split into two equally disturbed and unlikable women. This sci-fi drama Against my will, I ended up liking it.
Director: Andrew Semans
Screenwriters: Andrew Semans
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone
Cinematographer: Wyatt Garfield
Sundance Synopsis: Margaret (Rebecca Hall) leads a successful and orderly life, perfectly balancing the demands of her busy career and single parenthood to her fiercely independent daughter Abbie. But that careful balance is upended when she glimpses a man she instantly recognizes, an unwelcome shadow from her past. A short time later, she encounters him again. Before long, Margaret starts seeing David (Tim Roth) everywhere — and their meetings appear to be far from an unlucky coincidence. Battling her rising fear, Margaret must confront the monster she’s evaded for two decades who has come to conclude their unfinished business.
Resurrection drags you into a whirlwind of nerve-wrecking encounters before making an abrupt turn to the horrific. What starts out as a tightly controlled woman, on the cusp of being an empty-nester, seeming to slowly unravel, quickly becomes a twisted cat-and-mouse game certain to leave you questioning everything. An insidious and disturbingly repetitive spiral of emotional upheaval and remembered trauma offers the perfect backdrop to Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth's destructive chemistry. Resurrection's absolutely absorbing and utterly off-putting all at once. It more than earns the label, psychological thriller.
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