VMagazine's Entertainment Editor Greg Krelenstein Reviews Sundance Film Festival

VMagazine's Entertainment Editor Greg Krelenstein Reviews Sundance Film Festival

Order Now

VMagazine's Entertainment Editor Greg Krelenstein Reviews Sundance Film Festival

This year’s lineup brought an excitement of fresh voices and new twists on familiar genres.

This year’s lineup brought an excitement of fresh voices and new twists on familiar genres.

Text: Greg Krelenstein

The 2021 Sundance Film edition was brought to life virtually – as we’ve become accustomed to at this point in the festival world – and delivered an assortment of exciting filmmaking.  It would be impossible to separate these films from answering to the current moment, yet some were in production before we even heard the word zoom while others were filmed during peak quar season and brought the industry back to set.  This year’s lineup brought an excitement of fresh voices and new twists on familiar genres. Here is a roundup of some of my favorites that are sure to wind up on a streaming service soon.

Passing 2021

Set in 1920’s New York, Passing, based on a novel by Nella Larsen, marks the directorial debut of actress Rebecca Hall.  The film starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga tackles themes of race, a personal story for the director who found out her maternal grandfather was Black passing as white for most of his life. Both actresses deliver incredible performances, and Alex Skaarsgard once again reprises his Big Little Lies role as the villainous husband.

MAYDAY, 2021

Mayday, written and directed by Karen Cinorre, in her directorial debut, stars Grace Van Patten, Mia Goth, Juliette Lewis, Soko and Havana Rose Liu.  The film opens on Van Patten’s character, a lowly hotel worker, who finds herself taken into another world, where a group of young women trap men, though radio transmissions. Yes, as strange a plotline as it sounds, the film blends fantasy and reality and is marked by a new director’s original vision and a standout performance by the always incredible Mia Goth.

How it Ends, 2021

How It Ends written/directed by Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein. The apocalyptic comedy, starring Lister-Jones as a woman navigating the streets of Los Angeles determined to make amends with her parents and former lovers and friends on the last day on Earth. Accompanied by her younger self, played by Cailey Spaeny (Lister-Jones collaborated with the actress in last year’s retelling of The Craft) the film somehow makes light of the anxiety one might experience this day with the threat of an asteroid coming for the planet.  Cameos from Olivia Wilde, Helen Hunt, Fred Armisen keep the film going and shot during the pandemic, it somehow felt socially distant and emotionally resonant at the same time.

Together Together 2021

The title of the film Together Together, written and directed by Nikole Beckwith refers to when one describes a relationship as being physically together but not actually “together."  Turning the surrogate narrative on its head, Ed Helms plays a forty-something single man who is desperate to start a family that he decides to take matters into his own hands and makes a deal with a mid-twenties coffee shop worker played by comedian Patti Harrison. Their unlikely friendship progresses along with her pregnancy but the movie avoids cliche and explores a different version of the way adults become intimate without really ever really being romantic.  Harrison’s first leading film role delivers recalls the big comedian debut of Amy Schumer in Trainwreck and injects the film with the perfect blend of comedy and melancholy.

Land, 2021

Robin Wright stars and directs in Land, about a woman who retreats into a remote Wyoming cabin to recover from a family tragedy.  Isolated from the world, she experiences a series of challenges and after resisting the kindness of strangers, she befriends another dweller on the mountain played by Demian Bichir. Wright set out to make a film about hope and kindness, after reading the script a few years ago when mass shootings dominated the headlines.  Now coming out in the pandemic, it’s themes of isolation and rebirth take on new meaning.

UP NEXT

Activist Chloe B. McKenzie on How Financial Education Changes Everything
V chatted with the researcher and educator about the intricacies of financial oppression on BIPOC people, the crossover of art and knowledge, and GameStop.