2022 Sundance Film Festival Capsule Reviews

Because of the number of films I'm screening at Sundance this year, I'll be doing full-length reviews of some titles and capsule reviews of others. Below is the first wave of capsules.

Watcher - Julia and Francis have moved to Bucharest for his job. No sooner do they arrive than she notices a creepy man in the building across the street staring into their window. Then the guy begins following her. Considering there's a serial killer named “the Spider” out there beheading women, his ongoing presence seems particularly threatening. Watcher is not the first movie to deal with a character being observed and stalked, but it does have several things that elevate it above the pack. The cold Budapest locations provide an ominous setting, It Follows star Maika Monroe gives a stellar performance as Julia that avoids the overwrought histrionics a lot of actors would have leaned on, and director/co-writer Chloe Okuno (V/H/S/94) devises original ways of staging the proceedings. The nerve-rattling movie builds to a gruesome climax. It's a first-rate thriller.


You Won't Be Alone - In 19th century Macedonia, a desperate mother promises her infant daughter to a local witch when the child turns sixteen. Years later, the witch comes to collect on that agreement, turning the teen into a witch as well. That begins an adventure in which the girl takes over the bodies of various people – including a peasant woman played by Noomi Rapace – and learns a lot about life in the process. Focus Features will release You Won't Be Alone on April 1, and I'll have a full review at that time. For now, I'll just say that the film is occasionally gory, darkly beautiful, and unexpectedly profound. It's also possibly the best historical folk horror movie since The Witch.

You Won't Be Alone

Sharp Stick - Lena Dunham returns with a new movie that's sure to divide audiences. (Never a bad thing in my book.) Kristine Froseth plays Sarah Jo, a virginal 26-year-old who begins an affair with the married father (Jon Bernthal) of the special-needs child she serves as caretaker for. This opens her up sexually, leading her to experiment with just about every proclivity under the sun after their fling ends. The first half of the movie, focusing on her awakening, is way better than the second. Sarah Jo's transformation never seems credible, and too much of Sharp Stick feels like Dunham striving to be edgy. Also, Sean Baker's Red Rocket handled similar subject matter with much more panache. Still, Froseth is good, and there are fun supporting performances from Jennifer Jason Leigh and Zola's Taylour Page as Sarah Jo's mother and sister.

Sharp Stick