Anamaria Vartolomei appears in Happening by Audrey Diwan, an official selection of the Spotlight section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Happening

The two best films I’ve seen thus far in 2022 won acclaim on the festival circuit last year prior their premieres at Sundance, and both happen to be astonishingly vivid portraits of female identity: Joaquim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World” and Audrey Diwan’s “Happening,” the latter of which won the top prize at Venice. Based on Annie Ernaux’s novel that delved into the towering obstacles faced by women seeking an abortion in France during the 1960s, Diwan’s film centers on Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei, who famously starred opposite Isabelle Huppert a decade ago in Eva Ionesco’s “My Little Princess”), a student who strives to evade the gender roles society is determined to keep her locked within. It’s wonderful to see Luàna Bajrami cast as Anne’s compassionate friend, considering how her own character was forced to deal with an unwanted pregnancy in Céline Sciamma’s masterpiece “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” yet what makes Diwan’s film unforgettable, above all, is its extraordinary performance from Vartolomei. She enables us to feel on the most visceral of levels her character’s fierce determination, amidst unbearable anguish, to fight the law obstructing her freedom. -Matt Fagerholm, Contributing Writer

Keke Palmer and Common appear in Alice by Krystin Ver Linden, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Alice

“This film is based on a real story,” director Krystin Ver Linden told us before the screening began. You are watching a woman, named Alice, who is a slave sometime in the 1800s run away from her plantation into the 1970s, and transform to a bad-a** Pam Grier. Logistics may be a bit off, but I think Alice represents the Black woman that was and who they could be. Also, Pam Grier is awesome. The only thing that was a bit off for me was the tone of the film while she is in slavery, and then the tone in the 1970s. It’s like two different films. But I really loved Keke Palmer’s performance, and that’s what sold the film for me. -Rebecca Martin, Managing Editor

Siiri Solalinna appears in Hatching by Hanna Bergholm, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by IFC Midnight.

Hatching

We may laugh all we want at the gloriously cornball pleasures of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” in how it strained to contrive an idealized view of a family—and of America itself—that never existed. But how is that any different from the ways in which we strive to present ourselves in the most synthetically pleasing light via modern technology? Finnish director Hanna Bergstrom’s diabolically entertaining gem chronicles the dissolution of a family whose matriarch consistently brandishes a selfie stick to showcase the alleged perfection of her deeply dysfunctional family on her personal blog. The film’s heroine is Tinja (a revelatory Siiri Solalinna), who decides to care for the unhatched offspring of a crow cruelly killed by her mother after it externalizes the family’s discord a la “The Birds.” When the creature emerges from its egg, it proves to be as unnerving a marvel of practical and digital effects as the velociraptors in “Jurassic Park,” yet that is only the beginning of the film’s morbidly funny and tirelessly inventive surprises. This is an enormously impressive debut feature from Bergstrom that makes one pine for the in-person screenings that make Sundance’s Midnight section such a hoot. -Matt Fagerholm, Contributing Writer

Nanny

Nikyatu Jusu’s feature debut “Nanny,” starring Anna Diop as Aisha, is magically horrific, and at the same time, deeply moving. Aisha is a nanny from Senegal who works for a rich family in New York. Her presence in this place is comforting. The daughter Rose shines to her, and Aisha’s relationship with the girl reminds her of her relationship with her son back in Senegal. Michelle Monaghan, who plays the mother, puts on an air of kindness, but takes advantage of Aisha. As things with the family begin to spiral, she has tormenting dreams that all involve water and magical creatures, foreshadowing what’s to come. This unexpected gem is one not to miss. – Rebecca Martin, Managing Editor

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