10 films to watch out for at sundance

From St. Vincent’s directorial debut to Luca Guadagnino’s gay coming-of-age drama, we preview ten of the most anticipated feature films to premiere in Park City as Sundance Film Festival kicks off this week.

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Jan 18 2017, 11:20pm

beach rats

Beach Rats
Sexual identity provides the twists and turns in Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats, a film about a Brooklyn teenager who escapes his bleak home life by pushing his sexual consciousness in various, and eventually conflicting, directions. Between hanging out with his wayward friends, Frankie chats to older men online, a game that turns real when he hits a nearby cruising beach. He's also fallen into relationship with a girl. Things, inevitably, get messy.

Landline
Get your 90s nostalgia hit with Landline, Gillian Robespierre's subversive take on family life and strife in mid 90s Manhattan. The Jacobs are a family with years of therapy ahead of then, as the two daughters try to expose their dad's affair while going off the deep end of sex, drugs, and clubbing in downtown NYC.

Read: In 2016's biggest films, barely a quarter of dialogue came from women.

XX
Horror is proving a hugely creative genre for female storytellers to let rip and this all-female anthology is an intriguing addition. xx collects four stories written and directed by women, including Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, in her directorial debut, The Birthday Party. She's joined by Karyn Kusama (The Invitation, Girlfight), Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound), and Jovanka Vuckovic (former editor of Rue Morgue magazine) while animator Sofia Carrillo frames the stories of xx in haunting tableaus.

Call Me by Your Name
Bringing a splash of European panache to Sundance, this premiere of Luca Guadagnino's [I Am Love] newest sees an affair erupt between an American-Italian 17-year-old boy, Elio, and his charming 24-year-old American tutor in the summer of 1983 in northern Italy. Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer play the young lovers in this much anticipated coming-of-age tale.

Before I Fall
Mean Girls get a redemptive arc in Ry Russo-Young's adaptation of the 2010 YA novel, Before I Fall. Fresh out of Everybody Wants Some!! Zooey Deutch plays Sam, a 17-year-old who is hot, popular, loaded, and heartless. Then, she dies in a car crash but wakes up the next morning to find — Groundhog Day style — she is stuck in the day of her death on a loop. As Sam's same same week unfolds, she has to learn her way out of the time warp and change some things about being awful. Strong on female gaze, the complications of teenage girl friendships, and intent on upending clichés about bad girls, Before I Fall sounds a lot of fun.

Novitiate
Maggie Betts wanted to create a film about the way women love and in Novitiate, her debut feature, she's hit upon a compelling idea. It's the 50s and despite her lack of religious upbringing, Cathleen has fallen for God — hard. She enrolls in a program at a cloistered covenant and comes of age against the harsh realities of religious life in the late 20th Century. The Leftovers's Margaret Qualley plays the lead, with a strong supporting cast including Melissa Leo and Morgan Saylor.

God's Own Country
A strong looking British addition to the festival line up, God's Own Country sees 25-year-old Johnny [Josh O'Connor] stay on his father's Yorkshire farm to ensure its survival. To survive himself, he binge drinks and seeks out casual sex. When Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe [Alec Secareanu] is hired to help in lambing season, an intense emotional relationship erupts between the two young men, in Yorkshire-born Francis Lee's debut feature film.

Roxanne
A legendary hip-hop beef and a legend of the genre get the big screen treatment in Michael Larnell's biopic about Roxanne Shanté. Roxanne was only 14 in 1984 when she, in writing lyrics to "Roxanne's Revenge," put in motion one of the longest answer record battles in music history. Larnell's film pits Roxanne's impending fame against the realities of life in the projects. Supported by Fresh Prince star Nia Long and Moonlight's Mahershala Ali, newcomer Chante Adams will be one to watch.

To the Bone
Veteran Buffy writer Marti Nixon turns her hand to a more personal topic in To the Bone, which examines anorexia from the perspective of 20-year-old Ellen (Lily Collins) who has spent her teenage years in various recovery programs but finds an opportunity to confront her demons in a group home, led by a non traditional doctor (Keanu Reeves).

Patti Cake$
In contemporary New Jersey, Patricia "Killa P" Dombrowski, can only dream of hip-hop stardom but that doesn't stop her from striving to escape the strip malls, dingy bars, and family strife she finds herself in. Music video director Geremy Jasper (responsible for Florence's "Dog Days are Over" among many others) not only helms this first feature, but wrote 15 songs that cross genres from hip-hop to hair metal, and screenplay. In the lead role, Australian actress Danielle MacDonald looks like a dead cert for a Sundance breakout.

Read: 10 films we can't wait to watch this year!

Sundance runs from January 19-29.

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Text Colin Crummy