On the first day of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, I was thrilled to end my day with Summer of Soul but things didn’t really kick off until day two. Here are the films I watched from my first full day at the virtual film festival.
According to Pathé International: “CODA follows 17-year-old Ruby, the only hearing child in a deaf family, as she finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her family’s reliance on her as their interpreter and connection to the hearing world.”
“Try to imagine what it’s like to sacrifice everything for a human.” – Bernardo Villablobos
Director Sian Heder poses this question in one of the most challenging ways possibly. It takes a special kind of person to tackle life as Coda, and Ruby is just that person. But between school, work and taking care of her family, Ruby’s plate is full. She uses singing as an escape from the busy reality but she doesn’t have the support of her family.
Even though much will be said about Emilia Jones’ performance, and rightfully so, Eugenio Derbez steals the show. He plays Ruby’s music teacher Bernardo, who sees Ruby’s talent and wants to see her thrive. Derbez plays the perfect middle-man, and his ability to act within this somewhat difficult role really stood out. Bernardo challenges Ruby to become the best version of herself, within her circumstances and his performance takes us on that journey.
Coda works because Heder forces us to understand what it is like to be in Ruby’s shoes. She elegantly tells the story in a way that every significant moment feels important. How she built the journey for Ruby, surrounding her with the pieces to make her thrive, coupled with a cast powerfully interprets the message she conveys.
According to Protagonist Pictures: “After viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid, a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality.”
The color palette chosen for the dark film was a standout for me. The color’s technically sound dynamic enriched the dark yet mysterious nature of the film.
The story revolves around Enid, a reviewer for the British Classification Board who’s responsible for reviewing the goriest, hard to watch horror films, greenlights a movie linked to multiple gruesome killings. Enid also feels like the world is responsible for her sister’s death and, because of that, she’ll stop at nothing to uncover the truth.
Director Prano Bailey-Bond spares no expense as things get bloody, gory and full of guts. The gruesome nature works, for the most part, but this blurred line of fiction and reality has been done hundreds of times. Because of that, Censor doesn’t feel new. It feels stale. It was an OK ride but it was missing something special.
I Was a Simple Man
IMDB: “A family in Hawai’i faces the imminent death of their eldest as the ghosts of the past haunt the countryside.“
I Was a Simple Man is a slow-building film as we weave in and out of Masao’s life. We see his life as a teenager, life in his mid-twenties and the present. There’s minimal dialogue with the strong score setting the mood throughout.
This slow-burn style film, in particular, failed to connect on any level. There is a sense of emotional connection that director Christopher Yogi wants you to feel, but he fails to actually make it. While I Was a Simple Man is a visually stunning movie, it fails to bring anything else to the table.
How It Ends
It’s the last day on Earth and Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) is determined to make it to one more party before that happens.
This movie really pleasantly surprised me for a number of reasons. The writing and attention to detail are what impressed me the most. Read my full review of How It Ends here.
Stay tuned for more from the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. You can find all my coverage here and on Twitter.