Flora and son, my animal

(Clockwise from bottom left:) Going to college in Mariachi, Flora And Son, my animal (Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival)
Chart: The audiovisual club

With most of the big firsts behind him, the 2023 Sundance Film Festival shifts to a lower gear before its last day on January 29. Those with snow boots still on the ground hold several screenings each day, joined by Park City residents and hardworking festival volunteers. Anna Camp, Jane Levy and Will Pullen were among those promoting Angus MacLachlan’s film. A little prayer and Ben Whishaw, fresh off his other Sundance premiere Bad behaviourshowed up to support Ira Sachs’ big comeback at Sundance, passages.

In the news of acquisitions, passages will receive Mubi castwhile A little prayer went to Sony Pictures Classics and A24 added to his already full list with Danny and Michael Philippou’s buzzy horror movie Talk to me. flora and son was acquired by Apple TV+, the first streamer to win the Best Picture Oscar, for CODA– the first Sundance title to win this award. Could one of this year’s premieres be next season’s awards champion? Read on for capsule reviews for flora and son and two more movies to put on your radar.

flora and son

flora and son

flora and son
Picture: Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Director: John Carney

Starring: Eve Hewson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Oren Kinlan, Jack Reynor

John Carney’s final ode to the power of music, flora and son is perhaps the most conventional film on offer at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and that’s by no means a mark against it. Attendees traversing snow-capped Park City from art drama to art drama are sure to appreciate its warm embrace, and so will audiences elsewhere when it inevitably becomes an instantly beloved outing. Starring an irresistibly charming Eve Hewson as a young Irish mother raising her delinquent son (Orén Kinlan) and learning about his innate musical instincts through a virtual guitar teacher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), it’s the genre of film designed to generate smiles from ear to ear.

There’s a lot of sour mixed in with the sweet, mostly thanks to Hewson’s raw intensity, and the original Carney and Gary Clark songs are to die for. You know that thing where a musical movie has to include a songwriting montage, and that song’s big reveal has to serve as the emotional high point of the whole story? With flora and sonlike Once before that, there is no doubt that the resulting musical performance will provide well-being and make you applaud in the credits. [Jack Smart]

Go to college in Mariachi

Go to college in Mariachi

Go to college in Mariachi
Picture: Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Directors: Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn

It may sound like a backhanded compliment, but Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn Go to college in Mariachi is a thoroughly enjoyable documentary. No doubt built in the spirit of underdog sports docs (though this one doesn’t focus on athletics but high school mariachi competitions), this South Texas doc wears his heart on his beautifully pressed sleeves. Shot over the course of a school year, this heartwarming film follows Mariachi Oro from Edinburgh North High School as he rehearses and takes part in various mariachi tryouts. Along the way, Vazquez and Osborn introduce us to several of its members who have to juggle their daily lives with the often grueling commitment that mariachi playing demands.

Some of these plots (including that of the professor leading the mariachi ensemble) are more gripping for their familiarity and banality than anything else; the well-rehearsed beats here feel less like a fail and more like the whole point. For Go to college in Mariachi is a celebration of a musical culture that, as the doc reminds us time and time again, has long enabled teenagers in South Texas to find their voice through the music of their culture. [Manuel Betancourt]

My animal

My animal

My animal
Picture: Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Director: Jacqueline Castel

Starring: Bobbi Salvor Menuez, Amandla Stenberg, Stephen McHattie

Painted in swathes of intense red light and moody winter landscapes, Jacqueline Castel’s romantic ’80s-soaked horror flick My animal is a low-key entry in Sundance’s “Midnight” schedule, but a compelling one nonetheless. Starring Bobbi Salvor Menuez and Amandla Stenberg, the film follows Heather (Menuez), a tomboyish hockey goaltender who has a crush on figure skater Jonny (Stenberg) as well as a dangerous secret: she’s a wolf- were. Navigating between her budding feelings and a tight-knit community reluctant to embrace homosexuality, Heather struggles to keep Jonny safe from his darker side as the blood moon slowly approaches.

Although the script can often feel sparse and the direction leaves something to be desired, My animal nonetheless perseveres as a sultry, queer drama that draws interesting inspiration from erotic thrillers and classic horror, and capital-G capital-R gothic romance. Based on an all-encompassing performance by Menuez, My animalThe thematic and aesthetic strengths offset the aimless direction. [Lauren Coates]

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