joemcfadden
8th August 2021

Sundance London 2021 recap: Day 1 – Edgar Wright, Censor, and more

The first day of Sundance London 2021 featured a wide variety of films, ranging from Edgar Wright’s music documentary The Sparks Brothers to the British indie-horror Censor. Read on for a recap and review of day 1.
Sundance London 2021 recap: Day 1 – Edgar Wright, Censor, and more
Picturehouse Central Cinema in Piccadilly Circus where the festival took place Photo: Ewan Munro via Wikimedia Commons

Last month I was fortunate enough to attend the Sundance London Film Festival. Below is a recap and review of all the film’s I saw on the festival’s first press day. Click here for my recap of day 2 and here for day 3!

 

Censor

Censor is a solid British indie horror with a unique premise and interesting ideas that unfortunately loses it towards the end. It’s well acted, with a very good lead performance from Niamh Algar, and is filled with creative visuals but unfortunately the script leaves more to be desired from such a unique premise. It uses history well and is still very enjoyable, however, it tries to make some larger points but unfortunately falls short of hitting the mark., Despite all that being said, it’s still an enjoyable film that I would recommend, particularly for its unique take on the horror genre. 

(I quite enjoyed the final shot however – it was a very clever way to end the movie)

3.5/5

 

The Blazing World

The Blazing World is a surrealist, sci-fi mess that touches on some interesting thematic ideas but unfortunately fails to translate them onto the screen effectively. It was well performed and technically solid but the script left a lot to be desired and could’ve done with a couple of rewrites in order to produce something coherent. At this point I’m quite bored of the classic American white girl horror story, even if it is done with a sci-fi setting this time around.

The final 10 minutes were actually quite good and the ending saved me from completely eviscerating the film but overall it was still quite weak. Some positives include the soundtrack and a strong use of sound alongside creative visuals. I also have a lot of respect for writer-director-star Carlson Young because, whilst the film didn’t do much for me, she is certainly a very talented individual with a very bright future ahead of her. Definitely one to watch!

1.5/5

 

The Sparks Brothers

Edgar Wright returns to cinemas for the first time since 2017’s Baby Driver with a documentary chronicling 50 years of modern music history, using the acclaimed yet underrated band Sparks as his subject matter. Wright’s signature style works wonderfully with the idiosyncratic but delightful Sparks, working to create a fascinating documentary that serves as much as a commentary on art and what it means to be an artist as it does a conventional music documentary. 

Wright makes good use of a wide range of talking heads, ranging from “Weird Al” Yankovic to Joy Division / New Order’s Stephen Morris and the Red Hot Chilli PeppersFlea alongside, of course, the Sparks brothers themselves, Ron and Russell Mael. Each interviewee is taut and used sparingly but all manage to say a lot with little time. The variety of the talking heads helps to make the documentary more than a simple exercise in history, allowing it to take on a form as a celebration of artistry and the artistic spirit as much as the music itself.

Of course, a documentary like this must also be interesting and most of all enjoyable and this is an area which Wright excels at. His signature style allows the audience to be immersed in the story of Sparks and how they succeeded by reinventing themselves and their music multiple times over the course of 40 odd years and 25 studio albums. The documentary never once slips into pretension or boredom – every minute is full of an insightful comment or fascinating fact that means there’s something for everyone from Sparks superfans to newcomers like myself who had not even heard of them before I saw the documentary for this trailer.

Edgar Wright has crafted a great music documentary that will certainly act as one of the great pieces on the history of music for years to come whilst still being an entertaining and informative piece of cinema.

4.5/5

 

Check out my interview with Wright and Sparks themselves on Sundance’s red carpet here.

 

Together Together

Charming performances and unique premise combine to create a heart-warming comedy about a single father-to-be (Ed Helms) and a surrogate mother (Patti Harrison). A tight script and witty dialogue make this a very enjoyable, and thoughtful, film that will make you laugh (and probably cry) without ever leaning into melodrama or quippy, self-serving, cheap comedy that too many films rely on these days. My personal enjoyment came from this being a believable and most of all real film that never treated its audience as if we were too simple to understand an often taboo subject matter (because we clearly still live in a 1950s Coca Cola ad where the Nuclear family reigns supreme). 

Some may write the ending off as a cop out but it was an effective way to end a film that simultaneously used and deconstructed genre tropes to craft a memorable, unique film that will certainly stand out from the crowd.

4/5

 

Cryptozoo

An interesting, different animated film that is visually striking, Cryptozoo is proof that indie animation can still hold its own against the Hollywood giants. The hand drawn art style is beautiful and is full of creative designs, borrowing from all its mythological inspirations to craft memorable images that are still vivid in my memory. The plot is compelling and interesting, following the efforts to rescue mythological creatures from the Vietnam-era US Army, however the story’s slow pace undermines its effectiveness at times. The historical concept is very enjoyable and, despite being stereotypical, it seemed somewhat refreshing in a way that you need to watch the film to understand. Unfortunately, despite the characters being sympathetic and interesting, they are never afforded much complexion or depth with only minimal development. Despite this, Cryptozoo is the type of film that animation does best – a unique insight into a creative subject matter that reminds us why imagination is so powerful and how nature is intrinsic to humanity.

3/5

Joe McFadden

Joe McFadden

Managing Editor (2022/23)

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