The Best of Sundance

By: Staff

Steven Soderbergh’s haunted house movie, new films starring Kieran Culkin and Aubrey Plaza, and docs about Christopher Reeve, unionizing Amazon workers and Argentinian cowboys are among THR critics’ 15 faves

Writer-director Aaron Schimberg offers an endearingly twisted take on actors, playwrights, egos and the plight of the disfigured. The provocative, dark A24 comedy centers on an aspiring thespian with neurofibromatosis (played with tongue-in-cheek gravitas by Sebastian Stan) who finds a cure, only to long for the life he had when his face was still deformed. Renate Reinsve and Adam Pearson (who has neurofibromatosis himself) shine in key supporting roles. — JORDAN MINTZER

Artist Titus Kaphar’s tender directorial debut feature is bolstered by a stellar André Holland as a painter who attempts to reconcile with his father (the wonderful John Earl Jelks) at the urging of his mother (an always invaluable Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor). Preoccupied by questions of love and attachment — and flaunting a breathtaking sense of composition — Kaphar proves to be a keen and insightful portraitist of Black life. — LOVIA GYARKYE

If it takes doing an MCU movie for filmmaking duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Captain Marvel) to plunge into the kind of exhilarating creative exorcism that Freaky Tales represents, bring on the superheroes. Not even their distinctive indies like Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind can prepare you for the kinetic energy, imagination and righteous battles — both rap and blade slice-and-dice — of this love letter to the Bay Area, told in four interconnected underdog stories starring Pedro Pascal, Jay Ellis and Ben Mendelsohn. — DAVID ROONEY

Taking the helm for the first time, editor Carla Gutiérrez (RBG) pushes past the dime-a-dozen “icon” label to face Frida Kahlo on her own terms, drawing upon the Mexican artist’s illustrated diaries and letters. The riveting documentary’s archival riches also include an extraordinary selection of photographs and footage. Honoring Kahlo without resorting to sensationalism, but also letting her speak, the film conjures the spell of a remarkable person’s company. — SHERI LINDEN

The new film from The Truffle Hunters doc-makers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw takes them to the mountainous Salta region of northwest Argentina to capture the passion, spirituality and profound symbiosis with nature of a community of cowboys and cowgirls. The film accesses captivating characters who very clearly relish their freedom from contemporary society. But the real stars are the magnificent black-and-white images. — D.R.

The modesty of India Donaldson’s first feature makes the gradual exposure of its protagonist’s emotional depths all the more transfixing. Contrasting the intimacy of its gaze with the expansive beauty of its woodland setting, the drama chronicles a camping trip taken by a collegebound 17-year-old (Lily Collias), with her dad (James Le Gros) and his best buddy (Danny McCarthy). It’s an exceptionally strong calling card for both the writer director and the young lead. — D.R.

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