The nearly year-long span from discovering Janet Planet‘s existence to seeing a single frame was fraught with worry. What if the extraordinarily talented Annie Baker fumbled her transition into filmmaking? Nothing catastrophic, surely––no sane person’s faulting Michael Jordan for his minor-league stint––but to paraphrase Kent Jones on John Carpenter: America doesn’t have so many great directors to spare that it can afford Annie Baker failing.

From frame one it was clear no such thing would happen. Janet Planet‘s a case study in a genius trying a new medium––base understanding of its what and how and why, but lack of precedent or traditional method yielding something rather new. (Or, at worst, in concert with great 2020s debuts Slow Machine and Beatrix.) Ahead of the film’s June 21 limited release, A24 have released a first trailer, albeit one that sells a different movie: scored by the Roches’ “Hammond Song” and cut to emphasize some wittier dialogue, it does far more to suggest an amiable, Obama-era Sundance film than Baker’s steeper arthouse aspirations. Whatever gets people in seats; it’s admirable enough to finance and release this film.

Jake Kring-Schreifels said in his NYFF review, “Throughout this existential comedy, lighthearted coming-of-age drama, and sublime slice of Western Massachusetts life, Lacy has a habit of expressing herself in unintentionally funny, wounding ways to her mother. It’s a characteristic that’s baked into their codependent relationship that Lacy struggles to maintain in the months before she begins sixth grade. An outcast amongst her peers, she tests her mother’s patience and devotion, threatening to kill herself if she doesn’t help her escape summer camp. Later, as she settles back home, Lacy insists they still sleep in the same bed.”

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In rural Western Massachusetts, 11-year-old Lacy spends the summer of 1991 at home, enthralled by her own imagination and the attention of her mother, Janet. As the months pass, three visitors enter their orbit, all captivated by Janet and her spellbinding nature. In her solitary moments, Lacy inhabits an inner world so extraordinarily detailed that it begins to seep into the outside world. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker captures a child’s experience of time passing, and the ineffability of a daughter falling out of love with her mother, in this singularly sublime film debut.

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