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Sundance Film Festival 2024: All Of Deadline’s Movie Reviews

The Sundance Film Festival has wrapped in snowy Park City, and Deadline was on the ground to watch all of the key films. Here is a compilation of our reviews from the fest, which include festival award winners like Daughters, the documentary that took the Festival Favorite Award, and A Real Pain, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriter Award for its writer-director-star Jesse Eisenberg.

Other pics include several that were scooped up by distributors, led by Steven Soderbergh’s ghost story Presence selling to Neon, A Real Pain going to Searchlight, Ghostlight to IFC Films, and Netflix’s smash $17 million deal for It’s What’s Inside.

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Check out the reviews below, click on the titles to read them in full, and keep checking back as we add more.

The American Society of Magical Negroes

The American Society of Magical Negroes movie
(L-R) Justice Smith and David Alan Grier in ‘The American Society of Magical Negroes’

Section: Premieres
Director-screenwriter: Kobi Libii
Cast: Justice Smith, David Alan Grier, An-Li Bogan, Rupert Friend
Deadline’s takeaway: The American Society has a good heart, and that’s what prevails. Commercial prospects are uncertain, but Libii is a talent for sure, creative and imaginative and an impressive world-builder, but not yet fully focused.

Between the Temples

'Between the Temples' review Sundance
‘Between the Temples’

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Director: Nathan Silver
Screenwriters: Nathan Silver and C. Mason Wells
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Carol Kane, Caroline Aaron, Dolly De Leon, Robert Smigel, Madeline Weinstein, Matthew Shear
Deadline’s takeaway: Funny yet philosophical, and driven by Carol Kane and Jason Schwartzman’s chemistry, the film humanizes the midlife reawakening many eventually face en route to self-acceptance. It will speak to any viewer who has felt stuck chasing someone else’s expectations.

Black Box Diaries

Black Box Diaries movie
‘Black Box Diaries’

Section: World Dramatic Competition
Director: Shiori Ito
Deadline’s takeaway: As much as a personal chronicle, Black Box Diaries indicts systems that allow the influential to act with impunity. When institutions meant to protect instead ignore abuse, Ito’s DIY investigation serves as a manual for sidestepping gatekeepers of truth.

Daughters

A still from Daughters by Angela Patton and Natalie Rae, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.
‘Daughters’

Section: U.S. Documentary Competition
Directors: Natalie Rae, Angela Patton
Deadline’s takeaway: By bookending buoyant bonding and peak life moments with unfiltered peeks into the girls’ formative struggles, Rae and Patton underscore how even periodic bursts of bliss hold radical power for reshaping worldviews.

A Different Man

A Different Man
‘A Different Man’

Section: (Premieres)
Director-screenwriter: Aaron Schimberg
Cast: Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve, Adam Pearson
Deadline’s takeaway: As a message and as an inclusive space, A Different Man exceeds, but as a film, and a narrative? I’ll ask this question: Is the risk worth the reward? For me, no. However, it will be rewarding for others who the narrative speaks to. In the grand scheme of things, I think that’s what counts most.

Dig! XX

'DIG! XX'
‘Dig! XX’

Section: 40th Edition Celebration
Director: Ondi Timoner
Deadline’s takeaway: The brilliance of Dig! in the first place is that it was about something other than music. This outstanding reinterpretation reflects that theme of art and commerce much more broadly, being an arguably more truthful document than Peter Jackson’s revisionist account of The Beatles’ break-up in his 2021 series Get Back.

Exhibiting Forgiveness

'Exhibiting Forgiveness'
‘Exhibiting Forgiveness’

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Director-screenwriter: Titus Kaphar
Cast: André Holland, John Earl Jelks, Andra Day, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor
Deadline takeaway: Set against a backdrop of familial struggle and personal demons, Kaphar’s film navigates the complexities of forgiveness, accountability and the resilience of the human spirit.

Freaky Tales

Pedro Pascal in Freaky Tales movie
‘Freaky Tales’

Section: Premieres
Director-screenwriters: Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden
Cast: Pedro Pascal, Jay Ellis, Normani Kordei Hamilton, Dominique Thorne, Ben Mendelsohn, Ji-Young Yoo, Jack Champion, Angus Cloud, Kier Gilchrist
Deadline’s takeaway: Magnetic performances by its all-star cast attack each twist and turn and drip with charisma in Freaky Tales, but for all its slick style the anthology film lacks narrative substance to match.

Ghostlight

'Ghostlight'
‘Ghostlight’

Section: Premieres
Directors: Kelly O’Sullivan, Alex Thompson
Cast: Keith Kupferer, Dolly De Leon, Katherine Mallen Kupferer, Tara Mallen
Deadline’s takeaway: Getting impatient for Kenneth Lonergan to make another great movie? Ghostlight should scratch that itch and more: a funny, intelligent and yet at times almost unbearably sad movie that takes a searing family tragedy and spins it into a riveting redemption story that somehow never hits a false note.

Handling the Undead

Handling the Undead movie
‘Handling the Undead’

Section: World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Director: Thea Hvistendahl
Screenwriters: Thea Hvistendahl and John Ajvide Lindqvist
Deadline’s takeaway: Handling the Undead excels in its minimalist approach to dialogue, relying on visual storytelling and sharp use of sound to convey mood. It’s a testament to the Norwegian knack for silent storytelling, where emotions resonate louder than words.

I Saw the TV Glow

‘I Saw The TV Glow’
‘I Saw The TV Glow’

Section: Midnight
Director-screenwriter: Jane Schoenbrun
Cast: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Fred Durst
Deadline’s takeaway: Given the director’s trans identity, it’s not hard to see I Saw The TV Glow as a metaphor for gender dysphoria. But Schoenbrun also has a lot to say about the role of pop culture in adolescence and the dangers of holding onto it.

It’s What’s Inside

Alycia Debnam-Carey in ‘It’s What’s Inside’
Alycia Debnam-Carey in ‘It’s What’s Inside’

Section: Midnight
Director-screenwriter: Greg Jardin
Cast: Brittany O’Grady, James Morosini, Alycia Debnam-Carey,  Devon Terrell, Gavin Leatherwood, Nina Bloomgarden, Reina Hardesty, David W. Thompson
Deadline’s takeaway: It’s hard to say right now whether It’s What’s Inside has the crossover immediacy of a Blair Witch Project or the long-haul slow-burn of a Donnie Darko. Whichever way it turns out, this is first-class genre filmmaking and an impressive calling card for everyone involved.

Layla

'Layla'
‘Layla’

Section: World Dramatic
Director: Amrou Al-Kadhi
Cast: Bilal Hasna, Louis Greatorex, Safiyya Ingar
Deadline’s takeaway: What borders on self-pity never quite tips over thanks to a winning performance by Bilal Hasna, who keeps the title character grounded on their voyage of self-discovery and holds our sympathies, just about, even at his most petulant. A refreshing rebuttal of gay stories that end in tragedy.

Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding movie Kristen Stewart and Katy O'Brian
Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian in ‘Love Lies Bleeding’

Section: Midnight
Director-screenwriter: Rose Glass
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshinkov
Deadline’s takeaway: Glass has created a snapshot of America saturated with guns, marked by bloodshed and characterized by lawlessness. However, when you add in some sexy, campy queers sprinkled in for razzle dazzle, you get a film like this full of thrills and captivating energy.

Love Me

Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun in Love Me movie
Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun in ‘Love Me’

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Director-screenwriters: Sam Zuchero, Andy Zuchero
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Steven Yeun
Deadline’s takeaway: Despite its strong start with grounded concepts and themes, Love Me gradually becomes cluttered with various messages. Consequently, it strays from being funny and charming to something more erratic and challenging to follow.

Luther: Never Too Much

Luther: Never Too Much documentary
Luther Vandross in 1987

Section: Premieres
Director: Dawn Porter
Deadline’s takeaway: For audiences lacking familiarity, Porter makes a case to appreciate Vandross’ contributions to music, and to culture. And for longtime fans, she has crafted an ode befitting our nostalgia while challenging any and all assumptions.

Presence

Presence movie
‘Presence’

Section: Premieres
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Lucy Liu, Chris Sullivan, Callina Liang, Eddy Maday, West Mulholland, Julia Fox
Deadline’s takeaway: Presence proves that Soderbergh is someone primed to take risks and operate outside of studio constraints. Testing new stylistic waters and a minimalist script, the film might bewilder many. But for the director’s fans, it signifies another cinematic success.

A Real Pain

Kieran Culkin and Jesse Eisenberg in A Real Pain movie
‘A Real Pain’

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Director-screenwriter: Jesse Eisenberg
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kieran Culkin, Will Sharpe, Jennifer Gray, Kurt Egyiawan
Deadline’s takeaway: For audiences, the draw likely will be Kieran Culkin, clearly ready for new challenges after a five-year tenure as Succession‘s snarky Roman Roy. For the industry, however, the film is proof that Jesse Eisenberg has ready to transcend the label of actor-director.

Sasquatch Sunset

Sasquatch Sunset movie
‘Sasquatch Sunset’

Section: Premieres
Director-screenwriters: David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Riley Keough, Christophe Zajac-Denek, Nathan Zellner
Deadline’s takeaway: If, like David and Nathan Zellner, you have ever pondered the quotidian life of the Sasquatch, aka Bigfoot, then this is the movie for you, an at-times silly comedy that somehow reels you into its strange, hypnotic world.

Stress Positions

Stress Position movie
‘Stress Position’

Section: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Director-screenwriter: Theda Hammel
Cast: John Early, Qaher Harhash, Theda Hammel, Amy Zimmer, Faheem Ali, John Roberts
Deadline’s takeaway: While moments emerge showing the glimmer of an insightful character study, the film dissolves into an endurance test drowned out by superficial noise. While one must tip the cap to Hammel’s sheer feat of micro-budget production, their organic style choices bewilder more than enlighten.

Sugarcane

Sugarcane movie
‘Sugarcane’

Section: U.S. Documentary Competition
Directors: Julian Brave NoiseCat, Emily Kassie
Deadline’s takeaway: Demonstrating unparalleled humanity, and compassion for the affected First Nation communities in North America, Sugarcane operates from a place of pure and total empathy. At the same time, NoiseCat and Kassie recognize the resilience of the survivors and their descendants, and their determination to seek answers to long-buried secrets.

Suncoast

Nico Parker, Ella Anderson, Ariel Martin and Daniella Taylor in 'Suncoast'
‘Suncoast’

Section: Premieres
Director-screenwriter: Laura Chinn
Cast: Nico Parker, Laura Linney, Woody Harrelson, Ella Anderson, Daniella Taylor, Amarr, Ariel Martin, Matt Walsh
Deadline’s takeaway: At its soul this is the coming-of-age story of Doris, who is caught between the prospect of the slow and agonizing dying days of caring for her beloved brother and dealing with a distraught, demanding mother. For Laura Chinn, this clearly is all personal, and her fine and moving drama marks a leap forward in a career that undoubtedly will be one to watch.

Thelma

Richard Roundtree and June Squibb in 'Thelma'
‘Thelma’

Section: Premieres
Director-screenwriter: Josh Margolin
Cast: June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Richard Roundtree, Parkey Posey, Malcolm McDowell
Deadline’s takeaway: Mortality is baked into every aspect of this movie, even when Thelma gets her showdown with the man who’s caused her so much misery. Nevertheless, there’s nothing gloomy in its message or June Squibb’s barnstorming performance. As Bette Davis put it, old age ain’t no place for sissies.

Winner

Emilia Jones in 'Winner'
Emilia Jones in ‘Winner’

Section: Premieres
Director: Susanna Fogel
Screenwriters: Kerry Howley, Susanna Fogel
Cast: Emilia Jones, Connie Britton, Zach Galifianakis, Kathryn Newton
Deadline’s takeaway: In light of what we now know, which is that Winner’s actions resulted in more attention to her unusual name than the government’s misinformation, her whistleblowing activities now seem horribly futile. But the wonderful thing about Fogel’s whipsmart film is that it shares Winner’s seemingly indefatigable belief that right is might.

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