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Sundance London 2018 Highlights: Hereditary, Leave No Trace and First Reformed

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If you missed out on the outstanding line up of this year’s Sundance London which took place at Picturehouse Central May 31 – June 03, you’re in luck! Three of the festival’s best titles are about to be released in UK cinemas over the upcoming weeks.

We’ll be rolling out full reviews as each film’s opening day approaches but in the meantime here’s the skinny on why these movies are not to be missed and deserve to be experienced on the silver screen…

 

Hereditary

Writer/Director: Ari Aster, Release: June 15th

Believe the hype. This is as impressive as a feature debut can be since writer/director Ari Aster has crafted an ingeniously perverse family drama with a supernatural twist and buckets of terror that will haunt you for days. When her dementia-afflicted mother dies, Annie Graham (a mesmerizing Tony Collette) is forced to look inwardly and realise how their complicated relationship might’ve affected her own family life. Drowning her grief in her successful artist career, Annie grows distant from her loving husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and their two children Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (brilliant newcomer Milly Shapiro).

Soon it becomes apparent that her mother’s lingering presence isn’t just in her thoughts but may be an actual spiritual force hanging around the house, yet that’s barely the tip of the iceberg. Forget what you know about the genre because Hereditary is not your average horror. Channelling Kubrick, Polansky and Lynch, filmmaker Ari Aster will take you to unexpected dark places and although the twisty side of things may not be as satisfying as one would hope by the time we reach the insane climax, rest assured you’ll still have plenty of food for thought.

 

Leave No Trace

Writer/Director: Debra Granik, Release: June 29th

If you’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence’s breakthrough role in Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone (2010), which earned the actress her first Oscar nomination, then you will jump at the opportunity to see the filmmaker’s compelling new descent into the wild. After a foray into documentary with 2014’s Stray Dog, the talented writer/director returns to narrative feature film with this adaptation of Peter Rock’s novel “My Abandonment” about a PTSD-ridden war veteran and his 13 years old daughter living a seemingly idyllic life outdoors in the forests of Portland, Oregon.

When a small mistake smokes them out to the park rangers, social services disrupt this father-daughter duo’s tranquil life, forcing them to abide by societal conventions and go live on a ranch. As imaginable though, it doesn’t take long for the mentally unstable man to feel trapped and drag his daughter back on the run into a wildlife, without realising that the girl might no longer want the same things as him. Ben Foster and incredible newcomer Thomasin McKenzie are phenomenal in these roles and their familial chemistry takes the story to heart-wrenching heights. Filmmaker Debra Granik cements her status as one of the most interesting auteurs in independent cinema and impresses with her sensibility when tackling the complex social issues of today’s America.

 

First Reformed

Writer/Director: Paul Schrader, Release: July 13th

One of the masters of American cinema, Paul Schrader may have had an uneven career but one could never fault him for trying his best to deliver compelling narratives that explore the deepest and darkest depths of the human condition. With his latest creation, the legendary screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull not only has done exactly that once again but he has also made one of the best films in his long-spanning career. First Reformed couldn’t be more timely as it perfectly captures the sense of disorientation and instability America and the entire world are currently experiencing.

The story follows Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke), leader of the First Reformed Church’s small congregation in upstate New York, who receives a cry for help from the young wife of an environmental activist just released from prison. The man is obsessed with the planet being doomed by man-made climate change and he’s spiralling into depression. Although it may initially seem like he’s just helping one of the sheep in his flock, the mission soon affects Toller as it develops ramifications into his dark past and his own personal crisis of faith. Ethan Hawke is magnificent in the controversial and multifaceted lead role, which is sure to make your head explode by the time credits roll. Schrader is a master at creating atmosphere and the film’s cinematography and production design vividly transport us into a world that sadly it’s not that difficult to relate to…

Check out our Sundance London coverage
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