With Rectify, Top of the Lake, and The Returned, SundanceTV made a name for itself in 2013, creating and/or distributing thoughtful, stylish short-run television. The Red Road,their first series of 2014 and only second original series (the first being Rectify), doesn’t live up to these antecedents, at least in its pilot, but is nonetheless interesting. While it lacks the emotional depth and gorgeous visuals of these other series, the pilot makes the case for following for this first, six-episode season thanks to two of its central performances and its unique setting.
Sundance 2014: ‘Little Accidents’ a grueling tale about the vulnerability of poverty and the intersections of heartache
A funereal examination of mourning in small-town America, Sara Colangelo’s Little Accidents is a touching window into the reverberating emotional consequences of sudden loss. Revolving around a mining disaster, the film’s narrative finds brief common ground for rich and poor characters to compellingly meet. The leveling aesthetic of death that is employed may sound cliche but this is a movie that utilizes it to stay satisfyingly small in aspiration and achieve a sorrowful portrait of inescapably ugly truths.
William H. Macy’s Rudderless takes on the process of grieving in the aftermath of a school shooting. The reasoning behind the tragedy is not explicated nor is it warranted. Instead, the film deals with the unraveling of one parent who cannot completely come to grips with the loss of his son. It’s towering subject matter that hasn’t been tackled since Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin artfully delved into the inner life of an adult victim left behind after her child slaughtered schoolmates. It’s not as heavy-hitting as Ramsay’s effort or in the least concerned with the grisly details of the devastating sequence of events, but still presses the same point that whenever traumatic crises happen, an ongoing struggle to decipher life and regain emotional stability erupts within survivors that can be just as dramatically viable as the inciting incident. Rudderless marvelously finds a bit of joy and music to be made out of irresolvable suffering.
Learn more about the documentaries—like Life Itself, Dinosaur 13, Concerning Violence, and The Overnighters—that set Sundance 2014 on fire
Keira Knightley stars in the new movie by director Lynn Shelton (Humpday, Your Sister’s Sister) that seeks to reason why a young woman hasn’t grown up yet. It’s a film about hesitancy and not knowing exactly what you need to achieve happiness. Swimming upstream of what everyone else wants for her, the lead character experiences a sea change and begins to buck other people’s advice. Laggies is a stimulating film that deals with individualism and perhaps relies too much on buoying a woman’s true identity with romantic interest but still succeeds in introducing a female character who dares to break away from expectation to do what she wants, even if she hasn’t a clue what that may be.
Richard Linklater finally presents us with a film twelve years in the making. Started in 2002, Boyhood follows members of a family as they change under pressure, strife, and love. It’s a captivating cinematic event that fails in a number of ways but still impresses as a worthy effort with notable moments that verge on greatness.
As the film begins Patricia Arquette is a single parent trying to juggle school and adequately take care of her two young children. Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and Samantha (played by Linklater’s daughter Lorelei) are from a previous marriage to Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) who still holds onto a bachelor’s life and dreams of a musical career. As the children grow, the story slowly shifts its focus to Mason. We leisurely chart the growth of his emotional maturity and mark the big milestones of adolescence. We see how his childhood and personality were influenced by the questionable decisions of his parents as they settle on careers and spouses. The cumulative experience of seeing how he develops is involving and fascinating to watch as the cast ages but a lack of quality dialogue in select scenes hinders it being a complete masterpiece on the same articulate level as Linklater’s Before Midnight.
Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank is brash and unflinching in its depiction of the creative process during its most raw stages and how outside influences who are overly concerned with fame can not only corrupt a unique sound, but deeply disturb a musician working through profound problems. The film is loosely based on a character that late musician and comedian Chris Sievey hatched. Frank completely diverges from Sievey’s real-life story apart from the fact that his character wore a giant papier-mache head. Fragile and combustible artists come together in this story penned by Peter Straughan and Jon Ronson (who collaborated with Sievey’s Frank) to immerse the audience in total chaos. Not knowing where these characters are going or who to root for, this is a film to admire for how it upends expectations of character development and completely stomps on celebrating normative standards of success.