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Hannah Woodhead

Crises of faith and incredible women: What’s on at Sundance London 2018

There’s lots to look forward to at Sundance’s annual London showcase.

Bringing the spirit of Park City, Utah to London, England is no small feat, but the kind folks at Sundance Film Festival have been attempting it for the past few years, bringing a selection of the best films from their January extravaganza across the pond for a series of exclusive previews and events. This year sees new work by established filmmakers including Lauren Greenfield, Debra Granik and Desiree Akhavan premier to British audiences, as well as the directorial debuts of Idris Elba and Bo Burnham.

Burnham, best known as a stand-up comedian, is responsible for Eighth Grade – an illuminating and exceptional portrait of teendom, propelled by a magnificent lead performance from young actor Elsie Fisher. Set during the final week of middle school for awkward teenage outsider Kayla, it’s a truly warm and compassionate look at the fragile and fleeting nature of youth, capturing what it’s like to be young in 2018, but also, more universally, writing large the universal excruciating nature of being young and feeling everything and nothing all at once.

Elsewhere (and not technically a Sundance film, but a TIFF favourite) Paul Schrader’s much-lauded comeback First Reformed received a special presentation ahead of its July 17 UK release. Starring Ethan Hawke in a career-best performance as a pious preacher who experiences a crisis of faith after attempting to aid a young member of his congregation, it’s a cinematic confessional booth – one in which “nothing can change, and there is no hope”. Bleak? Perhaps. An incredible insight into the death of America? Undoubtedly.

There’s no hope either in Ari Aster’s chilling debut Hereditary, which shows Toni Collette unravelling following a death in the family. A masterclass in reinventing genre cinema, Aster’s remarkable debut is likely to terrify, delight (and probably offend) audiences in equal measure, but most notably examines the uncomfortable notion of what we pass onto future generations, and how we try to be better than our own parents. It lands in UK cinemas on June 15 –incidentally, you can read our review and interview with Collette in LWLies 75.

Finally, keep an eye out for Desiree Akhavan’s assured second film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Set in 1993, the film follows an all-American teenager (played by a pitch-perfect Chloe Mortez) who is shipped off to a Christian conversation camp after being caught with another girl on Homecoming night. Exploring the same fragility of being young and in love as Eighth Grade as well as the religious fallibility more brutally examined in First Reformed, it’s a quiet, poetic look at understanding, identity, and the strength found in creating your own family.

Sundance London runs June 1-3 at Picturehouse Central. For tickets and info visit picturehouses.com

Published 2 Jun 2018

Tags: Paul Schrader Sundance Film Festival

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