Sundance 2023

Sundance 2023 Day 1 Recap | The Pod Generation, Shorts, & More!

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival kicked off last night on January 19th in Park City, Utah. After two long years of virtual activity, the festival returned to in-person events to a resounding success.

This year, the lineup includes 101 feature-length films, 28% of whom are first-time feature directors. Additionally, 53% were directed by one or more female filmmakers and 45% were directed by people of color. With so many great features, I look forward to checking some films off my watchlist.

Day 1 of the festival was wonderful. In between trucking through the snow and catching the city bus to go to the next theater, I spent a great deal of time getting my steps in between watching some of my most anticipated films. So, without further ado, here’s a recap of the Sundance 2023 Day 1, a day for technology, motherhood, and self-discovery.

1) Sometimes I Think About Dying

Sometimes I think About Dying at Sundance 2023
Daisy Ridley in Sometimes I Think About Dying
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Lost on the dreary Oregon coast, Fran wastes her daylight hours in the solitude of a cubicle, listening to the constant hum of officemates, occasionally daydreaming to pass the time. She is ghosting through life unable to pop her bubble of isolation. And then Robert starts up at the company. He is new to town and the dynamics of the office. He is a naturally friendly person who keeps trying to chat with Fran. Though it goes against every fiber of her being, she may have to give this guy a chance. 

Review: Director Rachel Lambert and company crafted a humorous yet beautiful story about learning to grow beyond social awkwardness, anxiety, and emotional challenges. Through a great cast, led by Daisy Ridley and Dave Merheje, reminds us about the importance of human connection. Though it doesn’t always work with its humor and themes, Lambert directs her film with a delicate tenderness that will demand empathy from its viewers.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

2) The Pod Generation

Sundance 2023
The cast of The Pod Generation
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: A New York couple, Rachel (Emilia Clarke) and Alvy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) live in a not-so-distant future where technology provides ever-more convenient living. A rising tech company executive, Rachel lands a coveted spot at the Womb Center, which offers couples a convenient (and shareable) maternity by way of detachable artificial wombs, or pods. But Alvy, a botanist with an affection for nature, prefers a natural pregnancy. And yet, as Rachel’s AI therapist puts it, why is that “natural”? So begins the tech-paved path to parenthood.

Review: The Pod Generation is an entertaining feature that adequately explores humanity’s dependence on technology. With exceptional world-building, an enticing score, and an immersive set design, the film is entertaining from beginning to end. Director Sophie Barthes’ script is the kind that warrants further discussion after the film. And with incredibly strong performances from Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor, this funny and captivating story is sure to move audiences in unexpected ways. Check out my full review at Screen Rant.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sundance 2023 Short Film Highlights

1) Ricky

Ricky @ Sundance 2023
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: An ex-offender struggling with new freedom pursues redemption at all costs when given a job from his neighbor.

Review: The riveting Ricky is an emotional roller coaster as it follows an ex-con as he struggles to reacclimate to life outside of prison. As he takes on a new job and tries to avoid trouble by any means necessary, life when you’re an ex-con proves to be more challenging than anticipated. Thought the short film doesn’t risk any time showcasing his coping mechanisms, the film is worth every second of a watch, and director Rashad Frett directors the hell out of it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

2) Sweatshop Girl

Sweatshop Girl - Sundance 2023
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sundance Synopsis: Inés works as a seamstress in a sweatshop where pregnancy tests are periodically administered. When she becomes pregnant, she is sure that her condition will get her fired. She does everything she can to keep it a secret.

Review: Selma Servantes’ timely and humane story a working new mother defies all expectations with its 16-minute runtime. Through her script, Servantes recognizes a woman’s perspective and fear of losing work all because she’s pregnant. Additionally, Sweatshop Girl includes a remarkable performance from the incomparable Yalitza Aparicio Marinez, who once again reminds of her enormous talents and gifts through an emotionally compelling performance.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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