This years’ Sundance festival in Park City, Utah went out with a bang. As per usual, with it’s star-filled arrival came a number of noteworthy films that we guarantee will surface your radar later this year.
Naturally, with the festival and competition concluding this past weekend, there isn’t a more perfect time then ever to discuss the best of the best from the entries this year. Since there were 66 indie flicks selected to compete within the U.S. competition, it definitely made it very challenging to narrow it down to our ten favorites from this year. Nevertheless, it’s time for Press Pass LA to reveal our top picks from Sundance 2017.
Directed by Dee Rees
Written by Dee Rees and Virgil Williams
Starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige, Jonathan Banks and Rob Morgan
This year, Mudbound proved to be a Sundance breakout. Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel of the same name, it takes a look at the dynamics of two different families during the 1940s Jim Crow era in Mississippi: the farm owners and the sharecroppers that work on it. While the film addresses a great deal of racial tension and politics post-World War II, the film builds towards a highly dramatic end. Mudbound provides a familiarity similar to previous Sundance hit, Birth of a Nation. Yet, it managed to succeed on its own merits because Netflix reached deep into its pockets to purchase it.
2.“To The Bone”
Directed/Written by Marti Noxon
Starring Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp, and Liana Liberato
After Lily Collins received a Golden Globes nod for her role in Rules Don’t Apply, she is quickly emerging as a serious contender within the industry. At Sundance this year, she starred in To The Bone—a dark comedy about a young woman (Collins) undergoing her fifth and final rehab stint during her battle with anorexia. Under the care of her new doctor (Reeves), she is forced to evaluate what the source of her behavior. While the film is based on writer-director Marti Noxon’s personal experience with an eating disorder, this film allowed Collins to draw from her own experience with anorexia to connect with the film and her character. Although the film is technically a dark comedy, it delivers by appropriately and effectively addressing major aspects of anorexia. If you’re intrigued by this Sundance flick, To The Bone was also bought by Netflix and will make its debut online soon.
3.“The Big Sick”
Directed by Michael Showalter
Written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon
Starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan
With the divide that America is currently facing, The Big Sick couldn’t surface at a more perfect time. Written by Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon, The Big Sick tells the story of their real-life relationship as a interracial couple. Consequently, the tension between their families over the intercultural relationship—Nanjiani is Pakistani and Gordon is American—centers the dramedy. After its Sundance premiere, Amazon Studios didn’t hesitate to purchase The Big Sick for $12 million. It’s safe to say this film will grace your computer screen before you know it.
Directed by Gillian Robespierre
Written by Gillian Robespierre and Elisabeth Holm
Starring Jenny Slate, Edie Falco, John Turturro, Abby Quinn, Jay Duplass and Finn Wittrock
If you’re looking for a film to engorge you with total 90s nostalgia, then Landline is for you. Set in Manhattan, the film explores the mental breakdown of one sister before her wedding (Jenny Slate) and the teen rebellion phase of another (Abby Quinn). After they discover their father’s previous affair, the two join forces to confront their father about it without involving their mother. Overall, family dysfunction seems to be the driving force within this film. Since Landline was welcomed to rave reviews from Sundance audience members, it quickly sold to Amazon.
5.“Ingrid Goes West”
Directed/Written by Matt Spicer
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, and Billy Magnussen
During a time were selfies are all the rage and generating a social following means something, Ingrid Goes West comes to Sundance to tell the tale of this problematic self-absorbed era. The film follows a young woman (Aubrey Plaza) whose obsession for an Instafamous social media star leads her to move to Los Angeles to befriend her. Consequently, the fan—who has a past in exhibiting obsessive behavior—quickly behaves in a disturbing and dangerous manner. The film portrays the issue with psycho-obsessed fans in a digital age, contributing a new conversation in film about idolization of public figures.
6.“Call Me By Your First Name”
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Written by James Ivory and Luca Guadagnino
Starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, and Victoire Du Bois
Based on the book of the same name, Luca Guadagnino did well by it in creating this stunning and visually pleasing film adaption. Set in 1980s Italy, the film explores the relationship between a 24 year old man (Armie Hammer) and a 17 year old American-Italian boy (Timothée Chalamet). Call Me By Your First Name is a standout amongst the gay film genre as it doesn’t venture down the path of a tragic ending or other typical problems highlighted within the genre. It’s a pure romance film at heart that focuses on a summer love. In time, we believe that it could be deemed as a classic as viewers grow to appreciate its honesty and warmth.
Directed/Written by Geremy Jasper
Starring Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, and Mamoudou Athie
Music video director Geremy Jasper was wise to give it a go as a filmmaker because
Patti Cake$ proved to be a hit amongst moviegoers at this year’s festival. This surprising crowd-pleaser tells the story of New Jersey native Patti—aka Killa P—and her road to a successful career as a rapper. As she attempts to convince her counterparts that she will be the next big rapping sensation, she eventually struggles to find it within herself to see that she deserves to succeed. With Australian actress Danielle Macdonald in the starring role alongside a predominately unknown cast, Fox Searchlight purchased the film in hopes to continue their successful indie streak (i.e. Napoleon Dynamite and Little Miss Sunshine). Whether or not the film will be able to wow audiences outside Sundance is uncertain, but there is potential for Patti Cake$ to surprise future moviegoers too.
Directed/Written by Jordan Peele
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, and Catherine Keener
As the directorial debut of known comedian Jordan Peele, this is far from what fans would normally expect to see from him. Get Out tells the story of what happens when a black man (Daniel Kaluuya) meets the parents of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams). However, he quickly notices strange things within the suburban home and neighborhood. As a big fan of the horror genre, Peele explained that he wanted to create a film that has been missing within the horror film genre. Therefore, he wisely teamed up with Blumhouse—the company behind The Gift and Insidious—and created a genius film that generated applause by Sundance goers. With Peele boldly presenting this new commentary within the horror genre (and timely one at that), we only expect great things from this one.
9.“A Ghost Story”
Directed/Written by David Lowery
Starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara
How many serious films can successfully portray a ghost with bedsheets and eyeholes? A Ghost Story manages to do this as it takes a unique approach in discussing loneliness, death, and finding the strength to move on from a loved one. It’s strange in many ways because the couple—played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara—barely speak throughout the movie ultimately making this a movie that you’ll either love or hate. However, this beautifully shot art film could be Affleck and Mara’s return to Oscar stardom.
10.“I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore”
Directed/Written by Macon Blair
Starring Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood
As winner of the top prize at Sundance this year, comedy crime-drama I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore is sure to make waves this year. The film follows a depressed woman (Melanie Lynskey) who realizes she’s fed up with how inconsiderate the people of the world can be and decides to seek out those who broke into her home. She teams up with her martial-arts loving neighbor (Elijah Wood) on her path towards revenge. It’s “standing up to bullies” theme fit seamlessly with the political atmosphere the world is now facing, which easily made it a winner in the judges eyes. Likewise, Netflix made sure to quickly by this film to share the magic that is I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore with viewers promptly.