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Sundance: The Mission

Directed by Tania Anderson, The Mission follows a group of young Mormon missionaries as they travel to Finland to proselytize. The missionaries work in twos of the same gender, a way to protect each other but also maintain purity and keep tabs on each other. The film follows the young  elders and sisters as they struggle to learn Finnish, deal with resistance from the locals and connect with other Mormons. 

Anderson’s documentary is very straightforward. There are no formal interviews, no narration, no history lessons, no opinion or debate. The Mormon missionaries are presented in a way that is enlightening and respectful. Sometimes you just need the subjects to tell their own story and Anderson recognized this and gave the missionaries space to do so.

As someone who used to be in a religion that put emphasis on proselytizing, I really felt for the elder who had to cut his mission short because he was suffering from panic attacks. I went through the same thing and I hope he’s able to find help and an escape from his situation.

The Mission premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance: Piggy

13 year old Sara (Laura Galán) is incessantly bullied by her peers because of her weight. On a hot summer day, after helping her dad out at his butcher shop, she heads over to the pool to cool off. There she endures harassment by the local girls who call her “Piggy” and stealing her backpack and shoes. When she makes the treacherous walk back home, she witnesses a mysterious stranger kidnaping the three girls who only moments ago were tormenting her. This man has been killing random people in the area but has a particular interest in punishing the people who hurt Sara. She’s conflicted by the attention given to her by this man and whether to help the local community find the girls before it’s too late.

Written and directed by Carlota Pereda, Piggy is enjoyable light horror with some problematic elements. It’s based on the short film by the same name released in 2018. It expands the story into a full length horror film. It reminded me greatly of the last 20 minutes of Catherine Breillat’s 2001 film Fat Girl. Both feature heavyset 13 year old girls who are favored by a much older serial killer and must endure the trauma of not being accepted because of their appearance. 

In Piggy, the actress playing Sara is in her mid 30s yet the character is 13. The age difference is very apparent and we have to really suspend our disbelief in order to buy that the character is a pre-teen and not a grown woman. Also, there were a couple of scenes in which Sara devours junk food. These do not serve the plot whatsoever and could have easily been removed to avoid reinforcing stereotypes.

Piggy premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance: The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future

Nature sings in Francisca Alegría’s magical realism film The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future. Magdalena (Mia Maestro) has emerged from the waters where she committed suicide many years ago. She visits the members of her family who all have different reactions to seeing her. Magdalena doesn’t speak but brings an energy with her that sparks electricity and makes the cows, the bees, the fish and other elements of nature sing beautiful music. While herr family is confused by her presence, Magdalena offers no closure; just reconnection.

This hauntingly beautiful Chilean fable reminds us that we are one with nature and we must protect it. It’s not a film to make sense of. Rather one to simply experience.

The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future premiered at the 2022 Sundance FIlm Festival.

Sundance: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Sixty something widow Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) is looking for a new experience. She hires sex worker Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) for an encounter. Nancy’s only ever been with one man, her now deceased husband, who preferred very matter-of-fact sex. Nancy really wants to be adventurous in the sack. And perhaps maybe an orgasm? She’s never had one before. But that might be too much to ask. Leo Grande is more than willing to help Nancy. The problem is that Nancy won’t stop talking, won’t stop worrying and won’t stop asking the fairly secretive Leo questions about his past. As Nancy books several encounters with Leo, she must come to terms with her own views of sexuality before she can find what she’s looking for.

Written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a dynamic exploration of age, sexuality and identity. The story plays out in four chapters and we see both growth and decline with Emma Thompson’s character. She’s absolutely terrific in this, which isn’t a surprise by any means. Thompson boldly ventures to demonstrate that, yes, an older woman can not only crave sex but they can be sexy too. Daryl McCormack holds his own opposite his costar. He portrays that natural confidence that makes Leo Grande such an engaging protagonist. While the first chapter can feel like a bit frustrating, viewers will ultimately be rewarded with the reach the film’s satisfying climax.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Update: Good Luck To You, Leo Grande premieres June 17th on Hulu.

Sundance: Am I OK?

Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and June (Sonoya Mizuno) are inseperable. When Lucy discovers that June is moving to London for her job, she’s beside herself. Especially because Lucy is starting to come to terms that despite many attempts at heteronormative relationships, she’s really not interested in men at all. June tries to help guide Lucy in her new journey of coming out of the closet but their disagreements on how Lucy should go about it and what will happen to their friendship when June leaves for London threatens to tear their relationship apart.

Directed by Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro Am I OK? is not your typical coming-out story and in that way it feels fresh and different. Lucy struggles with the intricacies of same sex attraction, especially the mixed signals she gets from her coworker. This film didn’t wow me but it was enjoying. Am I OK? is a heartfelt comedy about friendship and sexuality.

Note to add: I’m not sure when this was shot but there are several scenes that take place in the old 101 Coffee Shop which was a Hollywood treasure until it closed during the pandemic.  It’s now one of the locations for the Clark Street  chain.

Am I OK? premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

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