Sundance movies you can see online, or in person, in the festival's last days – Salt Lake Tribune

(Justine Yeung | Sundance Institute) Kristen Stewart, left, and Steven Yeun play the avatars of machines — a "smart" buoy and a satellite — who try to emulate a human relationship, in the science-fiction romantic drama "Love Me," directed by Sam Zuchero and Andy Zuchero, playing in the U.S. Dramatic competition of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.
As the 2024 Sundance Film Festival winds down, movie lovers who find it difficult to traverse the snowy streets of Park City — or even the crowded venues of downtown Salt Lake City — have a new place to watch: Their couch.
The last four days of Sundance, Thursday through Sunday, are a hybrid festival, where 54 of the festival’s 90-odd feature films will be available to screen on Sundance’s online portal, The festival’s short film programs also will stream via the portal. (There also still are screenings in person in Park City and Salt Lake City through Sunday, including the award winners on the weekend.)
The burning question is: What’s online that’s worth seeing? Two of The Tribune’s writers offer up suggestions for seven of this year’s titles they really liked — comedies, dramas and documentaries. Here are our capsule reviews:
(Eric Zachanowich | Searchlight Pictures) Nico Parker, left, hangs out with her friends (from left, Ella Anderson, Ariel Martin and Daniella Taylor) in the tragicomedy "Suncoast," directed and written by Laura Chinn, playing in the U.S. Dramatic competition of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. The movie is scheduled to start streaming Feb. 9, 2024, on Hulu.
“Suncoast” (U.S. Dramatic competition) • ★★★★ • Grief and resilience are at the heart of this coming-of-age comedy-drama, which writer-director Laura Chinn based on her own life. Doris (played by Nico Parker) is a 17-year-old growing up in Florida in 2005, when her mother (Laura Linney) is preoccupied with the details of putting Doris’ older brother — suffering from brain cancer and nearing death — in hospice care. The family soon discovers that the hospice is the same facility where Terry Schiavo, a woman in a persistent vegetative state, is also living her last days amid heightened security and a contingent of Christian protesters outside. (All this actually happened to Chinn’s family.) Chinn’s insightful script follows Doris as she deals with her perfectionist mom, meets a kindly protester (Woody Harrelson) and weighs her impending grief for her brother with her desire to have friends and go to prom. Parker (who appeared in Tim Burton’s “Dumbo”) is a revelation, beautifully capturing the awkwardness of trying to be a normal teen in an abnormal situation.
— Sean P. Means
(Sundance Institute) An incarcerated man dances with his daughter in a moment from "Daughters," directed by Angela Patton and Natalie Rae, playing in the U.S. Documentary competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.
“Daughters” (U.S. Documentary competition) • ★★★★ • Keep tissues handy during this documentary, which highlights a program in Virginia and Washington, D.C., that coordinates a father-daughter dance with incarcerated dads and their children. Directors Angela Patton and Natalie Rae show fathers going through a 10-week fatherhood class (a requirement to participate in the dance), in which they talk about their relationships with their daughters. Meanwhile, the daughters are shown moving through their lives, getting ready to see their dads again — sometimes for the first time in years. The narrative culminates with the dance, which will likely bring audiences to tears. But Patton and Rae go further, showing the effect the dance has on both fathers and daughters, and why, because of the snail’s pace of the American justice system, the endings are not all happy ones.
— Alex Vejar
“Love Me” (U.S. Dramatic competition) • ★★★1/2 • Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun play a buoy and a satellite, respectively, that develop a relationship in a post-human world where the internet has been preserved on the satellite’s database. Directors Sam and Andy Zuchero move through three chapters, as the characters evolve from motion-capture animated avatars to live-action people — and Stewart and Yeun’s chemistry is undeniable throughout. The strength of “Love Me” is in its themes, defining humans’ relationship to technology and the internet, along with the performative nature of social media and its consequences. It’s a wonderful, reflective story of our current age.
— Alex Vejar
(Sundance Institute) Izaac Wang stars in director Sean Wang's "Dìdi (弟弟)," playing in the U.S. Dramatic competition of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.
“Dìdi (弟弟)” (U.S. Dramatic competition) • ★★★1/2 • Like most coming-of-age movies that play at Sundance, the charms of “Dìdi (弟弟)” are in the details. Writer-director Sean Wang mines his childhood in introducing us to Chris (played by newcomer Izaac Wang), a 13-year-old Taiwanese American kid growing up in Fremont, Calif., in 2008. Chris deals with the normal teen issues: Having a crush on a girl, trying to be cool around his friends, and feuding with his college-bound sister (Shirley Chen). He’s also regularly arguing with his Taiwan-born mom (Joan Chen), who is hearing constant criticism from her mother-in-law (played by Chang Li Hua, the director’s grandma). The movie’s humor and heartbreak come from how specific the details Chris’s life are, and how universal his adolescent struggles are.
— Sean P. Means
(Sundance Institute) Kieran Culkin, left, and Jesse Eisenberg play cousins on a tour of Poland in "A Real Pain," a comedy-drama directed by Eisenberg, playing in the U.S. Dramatic competition of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.
“A Real Pain” (U.S. Dramatic competition) • ★★★1/2 • Kieran Culkin — fresh off his Emmy and Golden Globe wins for HBO’s “Succession” — delivers a superb performance in this comedy-drama. Culkin and Jesse Eisenberg (who wrote and directed) play cousins embarking on a tour of Poland, to discover their roots and visit the former home of their recently deceased grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. Culkin, as the more outgoing of the cousins, delivers one-liner after one-liner that get under the skin of Eisenberg’s more neurotic character. What’s most affecting are the emotional revelations through the movie, which isn’t afraid to show men talking openly about their feelings. Eisenberg’s impressive script also is a critique of how people sometimes explore tragedies — in this case, the Holocaust — and dilute them into digestible and emotionless fact-finding missions, rather than acknowledge what they really are.
— Alex Vejar
(Maria Gros Vatne | Sundance Institute) Freja Payne, whose family has to leave their farm in Norway after the death of her mother, is sone of the subjects of director Silje Evensmo Jacobsen's "A New Kind of Wilderness," playing in the World Documentary competition of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.
“A New Kind of Wilderness” (World Cinema Documentary competition) • ★★★1/2 • In this touching documentary, a family in Norway has to give up their farm after the death of the children’s mother, Maria, from cancer. Director Silje Evensmo Jacobsen takes her camera into the Payne family’s home, as their English father, Nik, talks with their three kids about the adjustments they’ll have to make, going to school for the first time and learning how to interact with other kids. Meanwhile, Maria’s teen daughter from a previous relationship deals with life apart from her siblings, and how she’s been unable to process her grief. Cutting between fresh footage and home movies shot by Maria, Jacobsen surveys the emotional hole left by Maria’s death and the family’s work to build their new life around it.
— Sean P. Means
(Ximena Amann | Sundance Institute) Juan Jesús Varela plays the title role in the Mexican drama "Sujo," directed by Astrid Rondero and Fernanda Valadez, playing in the World Dramatic competition of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.
“Sujo” (World Cinema Dramatic competition) • ★★★1/2 • When we first meet the title character, Sujo, he’s a 4-year-old boy whose father, a gunman for a Mexican cartel, is killed for going against the cartel boss — a situation that mirrors the opening of “The Godfather Part II,” and its depiction of the young Vito Corleone. Writer-directors Astrid Rondero and Fernanda Valadez follow his life into his teen years, as Sujo (Juan Jesús Valera) is homeschooled by his aunt (Yadira Pérez), who tries to keep him away from the influences that sent his father down the road to violence. Combining the gritty day-to-day details of Sujo’s life with dream sequences that carry a splash of magical realism, the film gives us a quiet and moving glimpse of how hard it is to grow up under the shadow of the cartels.
— Sean P. Means
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