Keep your eyes peeled for these remarkable films
Earlier this month, the Sundance London Film Festival brought the pick of U.S. indie movies to the UK. Fresh from their premieres at Park City, Utah in February, highlights ranged from a bizarre, blackly comic horror comedy to a fascinating documentary about a politician attempting to get back on the campaign trail after a damaging sexting scandal.
And the good news is: they’re all coming to a cinema, streaming service or DVD library soon.
Here are nine must-see indie movies to look forward to.
Morris From America
What’s it about? Markees Christmas plays hip-hop-loving 13 year-old African-American Morris, who moves to Heidelberg, Germany with his father (Craig Robinson) and attempts to navigate the usual adolescence-related rites of passage in a strange land.
Why should I see it? Cleverly blending the sensibilities of both European and U.S. coming-of-agers, writer-director Chad Hartigan’s award-winning fish-out-of-water pic is a treat from beginning to end, thanks to a sharply written script and a pair of winning performances from Robinson and Christmas. Morris’ rap scene is a particular highlight.
When’s it out? TBC
The Greasy Strangler
What’s it about? When Big Ronnie (Michael St. Michaels) and his grown-up son Brayden (Sky Elobar) fall for the same woman (Elizabeth De Razzo), a bitter rivalry erupts between the two men, complicated by the fact that one of them might be notorious grease-covered killer The Greasy Strangler.
Why should I see it? The combination of cartoonish horror effects, blackly comic dialogue and the extraordinary, committed performances from the two leads (let’s just say there’s a lot of very unflattering nudity) make this unlike anything you’ve ever seen, in a good way. By turns repulsive, surreal and hilarious, it’s the midnight movie to end all midnight movies. Warning: the trailer contains scenes of excessive greasiness and is most definitely NSFW!
When’s it out? October / November 2016 (in cinemas)
What’s it about? Ellen Page stars as a homeless young woman who impulsively steals a baby from a wealthy, negligent alcoholic (Tammy Blanchard) after she’s mistaken for a baby-sitter. In desperation, she seeks out her ex-boyfriend’s lonely mother (Allison Janney) and passes the baby off as her own.
Why should I see it? Former Juno co-stars Page and Janney deliver awards-worthy performances while writer-director Sian Heder’s sympathetic, powerfully emotional script refuses to demonise, instead finding unexpectedly moving connections between all three women.
When’s it out? Netflix have picked it up and will be releasing it on July 29, 2016.
What’s it about? When four couples (including Melanie Lynskey, Natasha Lyonne and Alia Shawkat), converge on a family home for a weekend getaway, things take a sour turn when two of them (Cobie Smulders and Vincent Piazza) realise the entire trip was orchestrated in order to host an intervention on their marriage.
Why should I see it? Actress-turned-writer-director Clea DuVall casts her film to perfection, handing substantial, meaty roles to gifted actors who are all too often relegated to thankless support roles. Smulders, in particular, has never been better, while Lynskey (who won Sundance’s Special Jury Award) is simply terrific as the chief instigator of the weekend who has issues of her own.
When’s it out? TBC
What’s it about? After a sexting scandal that forced him to resign as a U.S. congressman, charismatic (and unfortunately named) politician Anthony Weiner attempts to put the past behind him and embarks on a campaign to run for Mayor of New York City in this Grand Jury Award-winning doc.
Why should I see it? Co-directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg were granted unrestricted access to Weiner’s campaign and the results are utterly riveting as his apparent lead in the Mayoral race is suddenly derailed by the re-surfacing of the sexting scandal and the subsequent media maelstrom. A compelling, all-too-human story with a fascinating figure at its centre.
When’s it out? July 8, 2016 (in cinemas)
What’s it about? As a child, Owen Suskind found a way to deal with his autism by immersing himself in animated Disney movies, using their plots and characters as an emotional road map, helping him to connect to his family and the world around him as he grew up. Roger Ross Williams’ award-winning doc follows Owen (now 21) as he faces various coming-of-age milestones, like landing a job, moving into his own place and getting a girlfriend.
Why should I see it? Profoundly moving and often laugh-out-loud funny, Owen’s story is genuinely inspirational, particularly when he starts his own Disney Film Club to help other autistic kids. The film also contains perhaps the year’s most heart-rending onscreen break-up as a devastated Owen tries to come to terms with getting dumped by his girlfriend.
When’s it out? December 9, 2016 (in cinemas)
What’s it about? Based on the novel by Philip Roth, this ’50s-set drama stars Logan Lerman as the idealistic, working class son of a kosher butcher who attends a small college in Ohio and clashes with the administration, as well as dealing with his own sexual repression after he falls for a troubled girl (Sarah Gadon).
Why should I see it? Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon confirm their joint rising star status with a pair of beautifully pitched, mature performances that lend dramatic and emotional weight to this engaging period campus drama.
When’s it out? TBC
Author: The JT LeRoy Story
What’s it about? Jeff Feuerzeiq’s documentary unravels the surprising truth behind 16 year-old literary sensation JT LeRoy.
Why should I see it? JT LeRoy’s story is weird and fascinating, not least for the surprisingly large number of 1990s creative artists (Tom Waites, Gus Van Sant, Courtney Love, Asia Argento etc) that get drawn into it. However, the film, told in the real LeRoy’s own words, also has a pointed argument to make about the veracity of the term “literary hoax”, and how the true identity of the author shouldn’t have any bearing on the artistic merit of the work itself.
When’s it out? July 29, 2016 (in cinemas)
What’s it about? Writer-director Todd Solondz’s comedy-drama is a four-segment portmanteau film about a quartet of unrelated people (including Greta Gerwig as a grown-up version of Welcome to the Dollhouse’s Dawn Wiener) who find their lives changed by a dachshund named Wiener-Dog.
Why should I see it? Solondz’s unique strand of jet-black humour is strongly in evidence throughout – witness the scene where mother Julie Delpy cheerfully explains to her young son (Keaton Nigel Cooke) that her own childhood dog died agonisingly in childbirth after being raped by a dog named Muhammad, and that therefore, Wiener-Dog really ought to be spayed. Other highlights include: a comically elongated tracking shot along a line of disgusting doggy diarrhoea (scored to Claire de Lune), and a wonderful Littlest-Hobo-style Wiener-Dog theme song.
When’s it out? August 12, 2016 (in cinemas)