The 2022 Sundance Film Festival completed its fourth day of virtual programming yesterday on January 23, 2022. Out of the 18 films that premiered throughout the day, I had the pleasure of seeing four of these features in addition to writing reviews and joining The MTR Network as a guest on their podcast to discuss Sundance films FRESH (Director: Mimi Cave) and Speak No Evil (Director: Christian Tafdrup). Here’s my Day 4 Review of my Sundance 2022 Watchlist.
1) Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul | Director: Adamma Ebo
Sundance Synopsis: As the proud first lady of a Southern Baptist megachurch, Trinitie Childs carries immense responsibility on her shoulders. Her church, Wander To Greater Paths, once served a congregation in the tens of thousands, but after a scandal involving her husband, Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs, forced the church to close temporarily, Trinitie is struggling to manage the aftermath. Now Trinitie and Lee-Curtis must rebuild their congregation and reconcile their faith by all means necessary to make the biggest comeback that commodified religion has ever seen.
Review: This faux documentary about a pastor & first lady navigating their lives after a scandal is juicy and delicious for all the right reasons. Having grown up in a Black church, this film does justice to capture the facade that many church-folk put on — all in the name of “winning souls for Christ.” While Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown deliver show-stopping performances that bought some chuckles out of me, I really needed this film to lean a bit more into its criticism of Black Christianity. Nevertheless, it should be entertaining enough for the masses. By the way, Regina Hall’s monologue… enough said!
2) Dual | Director: Riley Stearns
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.
Review: Riley Stearns Dual opens with a fantastic and intense battle for livilood in this story about futuristic cloning and humanity. Unfortunately, these early promises of a great film quickly die out as the story unravels itself. On a positive note, Karen Gillan’s intentionally robotic acting was damn near masterful in this story about what it means to be human. But while the script is lacking in executing on its themes, especially regarding Clone Sarah’s need to be human, I still found myself engaged on its premise alone. And sometimes, that’s all you need.
3) Alice | Director: Krystin Ver Linden
Sundance Synopsis: Alice (Keke Palmer) spends her days enslaved on a rural Georgia plantation restlessly yearning for freedom. After a violent clash with plantation owner Paul (Jonny Lee Miller), Alice flees through the neighboring woods and stumbles onto the unfamiliar sight of a highway, soon discovering that the year is actually 1973. Rescued on the roadside by a disillusioned Black activist named Frank (Common), Alice uncovers the lies that have kept her enslaved and the promise of Black liberation.
Review: Of all the 2022 Sundance films that premiered, I am wildly shocked by Krystin Ver Linden’s Alice. Though Keke Palmer does all she can to elevate this script from a grossly contrived and oversimplified one, the issues plaguing this feature are too loud and obvious to ignore. To put it plainly, I am extremely disappointed in the cast and crew. Great music, though!
4) Happening | Director: Audrey Diwan
Sundance Synopsis: In 1963 France, Anne, a promising young university student, is devastated to learn she’s pregnant. She immediately insists on termination, but her physician warns of the unsparing laws against either seeking or aiding abortions, and her tentative attempts to reach out to her closest friends are nervously rebuffed. As weeks pass, without support or clear access, an increasingly desperate Anne unwaveringly persists in seeking any possible means of ending the pregnancy in hopes of reclaiming her hard-fought future.
Review: Audrey Diwan’s difficult-to-watch Happening is an important entry into the list of films centered around a woman’s right to abortion. What it lacks in story is made up by its gruesome realness, and Diwan has no trouble shying away from that reality. Anamaria Vartolomei is simply wonderful.
That’s it for my coverage of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, Day 4. While some films offered decent entertainment with great messages in their scripts, others played it too safe or oversimplified important concepts. One can only hope Day 5 shapes up to be a more exciting one. What are some of your favorite films from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival so far? Which ones are you looking forward to the most? Thanks for reading!