The 2023 Sundance Film Festival completed its third day of in-person and virtual programming yesterday, January 21st. My early start did not disappoint as I witnessed an unraveling of a workplace romance and saw a young girl do everything she could do to save her family. Additionally, I got to witness a kickass dynamic between two amazing sisters.
Through examinations of motherhood, gender wars, and sisterhood, Day 3 was filled with exhilarating watching experiences that kept me on the edge of my seat. Here’s a recap of some sexy, fun, and scary films from my 2023 Sundance Film Festival watchlist!
1. Fair Play | Director: Chloe Domont
Sundance Synopsis: Hot off the heels of their new engagement, thriving New York couple Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) can’t get enough of each other. When a coveted promotion at a cutthroat financial firm arises, supportive exchanges between the lovers begin to sour into something more sinister. As the power dynamics irrevocably shift in their relationship, Luke and Emily must face the true price of success and the unnerving limits of ambition.
Review: Unravelling the uncomfortable collision of empowerment and ego, writer/director Chloe Domont crafts a thrilling deconstruction of romantic bliss that you can’t look away from. In one of the most accurate (and wildest) displays of toxic masculinity as it pertains to partner support, Fair Play comes out the gate swinging with intensity. And to make matters better, the final 30 minutes result in an experience so stressful that it could have you yelling at the screen. I highly recommend this to all men and women. Check out my full review here!
2. In My Mother’s Skin | Director: Kenneth Dagatan
Sundance Synopsis: Philippines, 1945. Nearing the end of World War II, an affluent family lives stranded in their country mansion, tormented by the occupying Japanese soldiers who are losing grip over the island nation. Rumors spread that the patriarch, Aldo, stole Japanese gold and stashed it somewhere nearby. Aldo knows that his family will be slaughtered if they find the riches, so he escapes to seek help from the Americans. Soon they fear he will never return while sickness overtakes the mother. Searching for help, their young daughter, Tala, mistakenly places her trust in a beguiling, flesh-eating fairy, who desires to consume them all.
Review: Sometimes, the simplest stories are some of the best told. However, what In My Mother’s Skin lacks in simplicity, it’s made up in performances from the entire cast. Kenneth Dagatan’s feature also boasts a beautiful story about a young lady trying to fight for her family’s survival. Additionally, though it takes a while to get going, the stupendous sound design will keep viewers on the edge of their seats trying to guess what happens next.
3. Polite Society | Director: Nida Manzoor
Sundance Synopsis: A London schoolgirl and tireless martial-artist-in-training, Ria Khan is determined to become a world-renowned stunt woman. She’s crushed when her big sister, Lena, drops out of art school, starts dating Salim — the charming, wealthy son of the prominent Shah family — and announces, after barely a month, that they plan to marry and move to Singapore! How could Lena abandon her artistic dreams to become some trophy wife? But Ria soon realizes that something isn’t right, leaving her no choice but to enlist her friends in a daring mission to kidnap Lena from her own wedding.
Review: Nida Manzoor’s Polite Society is creative filmmaking at its finest. Not only does feature exuberant direction and a hilarious script, but the entire cast commits to some of its outrageous components. Underneath the fast-paced action sequences and frequent incorporation of slow motion, there’s an exceptional display of a sincere sisterhood. And with a kickass final 30 minutes, Polity Society is the easiest fun you’ll have all year. Full review soon!
4. Birth/Rebirth | Director: Laura Moss
Sundance Synopsis: Rose is a pathologist who prefers working with corpses over social interaction. She also has an obsession — the reanimation of the dead. Celie is a maternity nurse who has built her life around her bouncy, chatterbox 6-year-old daughter, Lila. One unfortunate day, their worlds crash into each other. The two women and young girl embark on a dark path of no return where they will be forced to confront how far they are willing to go to protect what they hold most dear.
Review: Laura Moss’ horror film is absolutely gut-wrenching in the way it captures the extremities one would go through to save a child. In addition, it contains some exceptional performances from Judy Reyes and Marin Ireland. A modern retelling of Frankenstein, Moss’s feature is a slow burn that is all about reconnecting to what was once lost. Catch my full review soon over at Screen Rant.