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5 Sundance Movies You Need to Keep on Your Radar in 2017

Getty Images
Getty Images

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival doesn‘t technically end until Sunday, but ScreenCrush’s Matt Singer and Erin Whitney have already left behind the snowy (SO FREAKING SNOWY) peaks of Park City, Utah for New York City, so now’s the perfect time to put a bow on this year’s fest with a look back at their favorite movies. Here are the five films from Sundance 2017 either Matt or Erin (or both) think you have to see when they make their way to a theater or streaming service near you.

The Big Sick
Directed by Michael Showalter

Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival

Judd Apatow does not get enough credit for the role he has played mentoring young comic artists and helping to bring their voices to the screen. In the case of The Big Sick, Apatow backed Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani and his real-life wife Emily V. Gordon with outstanding results. Nanjiani plays himself, a struggling Chicago standup who forges an instant connection with Emily (Zoe Kazan), a therapist he meets at a comedy club. But their relationship is repeatedly tested, first by his religious Pakistani family’s deeply held beliefs about arranged marriages, and then by a sudden and potentially fatal illness that puts Emily in a coma. In defiance of the contrived rules that dominate Hollywood romantic comedies, The Big Sick presents an authentic tale from a perspective that is not seen enough onscreen. Hopefully Apatow continues to use his clout to support worthy artists, and Nanjiani and Gordon get to make more movies together. — Matt Singer

The Big Sick was acquired for release by Amazon Studios.


Call Me By Your Name
Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics

We’ve seen first-time romances and summer flings depicted in film many times, but if anyone can breathe a fresh and passionate energy into that story it’s Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino. Best known for I Am Love and last year’s A Bigger Splash, Guadagnino adapted André Aciman’s queer romance novel for the screen with the help of James Ivory. Set in 1980s Italy over the course of a summer, the film follows the budding romance between 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer). Call Me By Your Name is sumptuous and sexy, and devastating in the ways it charts the dizzying and consuming symptoms of first love. Chalamet and Hammer are both excellent, while Michael Stuhlbarg gives a staggering supporting performance. It’s not only a new classic of queer cinema, but one of film’s all-time great love stories. — Erin Whitney

Call Me By Your Name was acquired for release by Sony Pictures Classics.


A Ghost Story
Directed by David Lowery

A Ghost Story
Sundance Film Festival

The title of David Lowery’s singular new film is both entirely accurate and slightly misleading. If you’re expecting a traditional horror movie about a haunted house, this movie is not for you. But if you’re interested in someone using the tropes of the traditional haunted house movie to express something personal about life, love, death, and the curious nature of time, you will be more than satisfied. Casey Affleck dies, leaving behind a wife (Rooney Mara) that he loves so much he can’t let go. And so his spirit, covered in a white sheet with big black eye holes, wanders back to their home, and stays there … and stays there … and stays there. A lot of the movies I saw at Sundance this year, even some of the best ones, were very conventional in their structure and themes. A Ghost Story rewrote the rules of a formulaic genre — and the rules of space and time. It’s the sort of movie that will stay with you for the rest of your life, or maybe even beyond it. — MS

A Ghost Story was acquired for release by A24.


Step
Directed by Amanda Lipitz

Step
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

I didn’t get to see a ton of documentaries at Sundance, but I’m glad I made time for Step, an incredibly moving film about the step team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. Director Amanda Lipitz follows a trio of seniors through their final year of high school; struggling with college applications, dealing with their sometimes difficult lives in Baltimore, and leading their team into a prestigious local competition. Lipitz lucked out with a story that takes several cinematic twists, but full credit to her for shaping an enormous amount of material into a cohesive and uplifting narrative about the power of art that also doubles as a fine tribute to the positive impact great educators can make in the lives of their students.  — MS

Step was acquired for release by Fox Searchlight.


Thoroughbred
Directed by Cory Finley

Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival

You don’t know Cory Finley’s name yet, but trust me: When Thoroughbred hits theaters he’ll jump to the top of breakout filmmaker lists everywhere. A wild and demented psychological thriller with shades of Persona, the film stars Olivia Cooke as a twisted sociopathic teen who ropes her best friend (a fantastic and chilling Anya Taylor-Joy) into a murder plot. It’s as unnerving as it is savagely funny as it charts the vicious consequences of teenage suburban ennui. With its sleek and stylish photography and cacophonous score, Finley has made a stunning first feature and a must-see for 2017. — EW

Thoroughbred was acquired for release by Focus Features.

ScreenCrush’s Complete Coverage of Sundance 2017

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