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Our Most-Anticipated Films at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Written by on January 15, 2018 

8. Private Life (Tamara Jenkins)

private-life

Last year marked a decade since the release of The Savages, the second feature from Slums of Beverly Hills director Tamara Jenkins. Starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, it was a powerfully-acted, perceptive look at familial struggle, and we’ve been waiting ever since for her follow-up. 10 years later, it is finally coming. Financed and distributed by Netflix, Private Life stars Paul Giamatti, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Shannon, and John Carroll Lynch. Jenkins’ script follows a married couple (Giamatti and Hahn) who are struggling with infertility and its damaging effect on their relationship, but when their niece offers up her eggs, things change. Shannon, who picked up an Indie Spirit award for Other People last year, will play the niece’s mother, while Lynch plays Giamatti’s brother and Shannon’s husband.

7. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan)

the-miseducation-of-cameron-post

Based on the YA novel by Emily Danforth, The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows a high school student played by Chloë Grace Moretz who is forced into gay-conversion therapy when she is caught having sex with her best friend. It’s the second film by director Desiree Akhavan who took her time following-up her 2014 Sundance hit Appropriate Behavior. “I could have made a second feature much earlier, it just would have sucked and I wouldn’t have made a third one,” Akhavan told Indiewire. Miseducation is slated for a Sundance premiere, so check back for our review soon. – Josh E.

6. Wildlife (Paul Dano)

wildlife

In the span of just a decade, Paul Dano has worked with the likes of Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, Ang Lee, Kelly Reichardt, Steve McQueen, Denis Villeneuve, Bong Joon-ho, Rian Johnson, and more. Presumably learning a thing or two from this batch of talented directors, he’s now making his debut behind the camera with Wildlife. The script, penned by Zoe Kazan and Dano himself, is adapted from the 1990 coming-of-age novel by Richard Ford, following a boy who watches his parents marriage unravel after a move and his mom falls in love with another man. Dano’s Prisoners and forthcoming Okja co-star Jake Gyllenhaal leads the film alongside Carey Mulligan, and it’s set for a Sundance premiere. The most intriguing aspect? It’s shot by Cemetery of Splendor and Neon Bull cinematographer Diego García.

5. Madeline’s Madeline (Josephine Decker)

madelines-madeline

With a pair of celebrated features a few years back (Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, Butter on the Latch), Josephine Decker is finally returning with her first narrative feature this year with Madeline’s Madeline. Sporting the best synopsis of the festival (Madeline got the part! She’s going to play the lead in a theater piece! Except the lead wears sweatpants like Madeline’s. And has a cat like Madeline’s. And is holding a steaming hot iron next to her mother’s face – like Madeline is.), this looks to be an illuminating, expressive look at crossing the lines of art and life.

4. Leave No Trace (Debra Granik)

debra-granik

After her Sundance-winning drama Winter’s Bone, which also served as a break-out for Jennifer Lawrence, Debra Granik is returning to the festival eight years later with Leave No Trace. Starring Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie who live off the grid in Portland, but when the government meddles in their peaceful existence, they must confront their way of life. With Foster’s intensity and the promise of another breakthrough performance, not to mention Granik’s authentic touch of location, this has the makings of one of the year’s best dramas.

3. Bisbee ‘17 (Robert Greene)

bisbee

A staple at on the independent film circuit for as much as his editing skills (Golden Exits, Listen Up Philip, Queen of Earth) as his astoundingly revelatory features (Kate Plays Christine, Actress), Robert Greene returns to Sundance this year with Bisbee ‘17. With a dual meaning, the title refers to the Bisbee Deportation of 1917–in which 1,200 miners on strike were forced out of their homes and left in the desert to perish–and a century later, in which the community of the Arizona town stage recreations of the strike. As conflicts arise amongst the townspeople, we expect another personal, meta portrait from the documentary-meets-narrative filmmaker, this time of past strife and present reconciliation.

2. Damsel (David and Nathan Zellner)

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The Zellner brothers’ gently melancholic stranger than fiction yarn, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, didn’t quite make them household names, but it was at least enough to attract the attention of Robert Pattinson, who in 2018 continues his world conquering tour in films from auteurs the world over. One of four roles this year, Damsel follows Pattinson as a businessman traveling west to join his fiancée played by Mia Wasikowska. Narrative details are scarce, but given the filmmaker’s distinctively quirky voice, one can expect an off-kilter and unique take on a time-worn story. – Michael S.

1. Mandy (Panos Cosmatos)

mandy

In 2010, Panos Cosmatos seemingly came out of nowhere when he unveiled his feature debut Beyond the Black Rainbow, a baffling homage to ‘80s genre titles that emphasized its surreal tone and striking visuals over narrative and plot. It’s a film that seared itself into the brains of almost everyone who saw it, and yet Cosmatos has taken eight years to finally make a new film. Taking place in 1983 (the same year Black Rainbow took place), Mandy stars Nicolas Cage as a man seeking vengeance against a biker gang that killed his true love (Andrea Riseborough). It sounds like Cosmatos doing his own version of Mad Max, and with a midnight Sundance premiere on the first Friday, we won’t have to wait too long to hear how this film stands up next to his promising debut. – C.J. P.

In terms of honorable mentions, there’s the Lakeith Stanfield-led Sorry to Bother You, The Tale starring Laura Dern, Lauren Greenfield’s new documentary Generation Wealth, the Midnight movie Never Goin’ Back, Joshua Marston’s Come Sunday, Piercing, the latest film from the director of Eyes of My Mother, Crystal Moselle’s The Wolfpack follow-up Skate Kitchen, The Greasy Strangler director Jim Hoskings’ An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn, and the A24 horror feature Hereditary.

Lastly, there’s also the Spotlight section, which features a number of previously festival premieres, including You Were Never Really Here, The Rider, Foxtrot and The Death of Stalin.

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