Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Kevin Feige:
My Movie Life

The Marvel supremo's pick of the flicks
4Music's Size Does Matter
Introducing your new favourite app
Empire Blogs
Under The Radar

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Sundance 2012: Seventh Report

Posted on Saturday February 11, 2012, 17:06 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Sundance 2012: Seventh Report

Mark Duplass continues to be a Sundance fixture, this year starring in two very unlikely romantic comedies. The first, Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister, is technically a Toronto movie, since it premiered there, and, although I enjoyed the performances, I was hoping for a little more from it. Very much in the style of her last film, the excellent Humpday, this is a film about three people and an awkward situation. Duplass plays Jack, who is packed off by his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) to stay in her father's vacation house, unaware that her lesbian sister Hannah (Rosemarie Dewitt) is staying there too, having broken up with her partner. Jack and Hannah have a drunken fling, which not only results in red faces in the morning but causes more embarrassment when Iris makes a surprise visit.

Though the performances are excellent, the material isn't quite as rich as Humpday, in which two straight best friends resolve to make a gay porn film together. Your Sister's Sister looks at a similar bond, this time between two sisters, but even at a brisk 90 minutes it feels a little stretched and what starts as an intimate drama quickly runs out of places to go. More satisfying was Colin Trevorrow's Safety Not Guaranteed, in which Duplass plays Kenneth, a mysterious supermarket worker who places an ad in a Seattle newspaper's lonely hearts column, looking for a partner to go time-travelling with. The paper commissions a story about it, so flaky 
reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson) ropes in two interns – including acerbic hipster Darius (Aubrey Plaza) – to go with him on the assignment.

Darius is what might have happened to Thora Birch's character in Ghost World, and the oddball relationship that develops between her and Kenneth is surprisingly fresh. The central conceit – has Kenneth made a time machine or not? – is kept wonderfully vague until the end, and screenwriter Derek Connolly sidewinds into some very dark territory along the way, as Kenneth reveals his reasons for his obsession and Darius explains why she'd like to join him. It's not a feelgood movie as such, but this a very likeable film, especially in the way it brings together two uncommon characters and gives them the keys to a happy ending they seem to want to deny themselves.

I've seen James Marsh's BBC Films production Shadow Dancer (pictured) described as “moving”, which is absolutely something it is not. Some words they can definitely have for the poster are “powerful”, “tense” and “mesmerising”, but its absence of sentiment is what keeps it ticking. And that is no idle remark; after a 70s prologue in which a young boy is shot dead on the streets of Belfast, the film literally begins with a bomb, some 20 years later, as Irish girl Colette (Andrea Riseborough), the murdered boy's big sister, rides the London tube with a leather bag on her lap. Nothing is said, but Marsh creates an ominous tension as Colette first drops the bag then makes her escape through the labyrinthine tunnels of the station. Her mission aborted, Colette is pulled up by MI5, who inform her that he brother was killed by an IRA bullet, not a British one as her family believes. Her handler, Mac (Clive Owen), convinces her that there is a way out for her if she wants to leave, as he believes she does. All she has to do is inform on her elder brother, who is bitterly opposed to the ongoing peace process.

Interestingly, Marsh keeps things bleached out and simple; there's little dialogue and even less in the way of exposition. The only character we really understand is Mac, caught in a no man's land between two amoral subcultures and trying to play by the rules when the game is being changed all around him. It's also, unusually for this kind of story, a film about women, whether it's the scared, unhappy Colette, or the film's confident, composed M figure (Gillian Anderson), who makes harsh life or death decisions while leading a normal family-oriented life in the suburbs. Marsh's entry in the Red Riding trilogy easily proved he could handle fiction, but what stands out here is just how separate the director keeps his equally excellent documentary work. There's nothing arch or tricksy here, and hopefully there'll be rewards for this movie at the end of the year. It is, in every category, exceptional, with an edge-of-the-seat ending that practically demands a second viewing. (Which I gave it two days later...)

My Brother The Devil was another gritty British film about family loyalties, this time from Sally El-Hosaini. The film won a deserved cinematography award for DoP David Raedeker, who creates an astonishing sense of space and grace in some unexpected parts of East London. The seeds of urban drama may seem grimly familiar – the young Mo (Fady Elsayed) desperately wants to follow his badass brother Rashid (James Floyd) into a life of crime – but the USP here as the boys are second-generation Arab-British. I wanted to like this more than I did, but to explain why would rob the film of one it big surprises, which in some ways separates it from the countless ’hood movies that have proliferated in the UK over the years. It takes the film in an interesting direction, but, for me it seemed a little jarring. Still, there are some excellent moments and insights here, especially in the young supporting cast playing street thugs and vicious, pint-sized gangsters.

Still coming soon: Searching For Sugar Man, Room 237, Big Boys Go Bananas, The Imposter, Two Days In New York, Compliance, Goats, Wrong – and John Dies At The End.

Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (440)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


Night Visions 2013: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears, We Are What We Are, Big Bad Wolves
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Fresh Meat, The Colony, Sawney
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Sunday and Monday
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Thursday and Friday
By Owen Williams

Bloody Cuts In Conversation
By Owen Williams

European Film Awards 2012
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Silje Reinamo and Thale
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Juan Martinez Moreno and Attack of the Werewolves
By Owen Williams


Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
"Or don't..."  Owen Williams
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Juan Francisco Pardo Q&A
"Sadece on altı dakika içinde iyi bir görsel hikaye anlatmak önemli beceri ve bel"  skndrdmr
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Opening Gala
"That really amazing."  ommrudraksha
Read comment

2013 IIFF - The Winners
"Hi Simon, Trying to get in touch with you. Hope this works. I enjoyed your piece on Enter t"  matthewpolly
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Brisbane International Film Festival: First Report
"I think it is pretty clear the story revolves around The Blacksmith, in The Man With The Iron Fists,"  owenyunfat
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Thanks for the feedback! I hope I didn't give the impression that Cloud Atlas is a write-off; I just"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Hi Damon With regards to Cloud Atlas, I fear that it will face the same problem a"  ChesterCopperpot
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"No worries! I just try to describe things as I see them, and I often forget that, as Empire has grow"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your early reviews from the festivals, and of course, I'm not alway"  pythonlove
Read comment


Sundance Part Six: In The Loop

Basterds Blog

Damo's Top Ten Of 2009

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview

Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!

Sundance 2010: The Killer Inside Me causes outrage!

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines

The Wrestler

Where to see Moon...

Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (167)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list

Classic Feature: Gods Among Us - Paul Newman
A cat so cool he makes Steve McQueen look geeky.

The Future Of Film: There’ll Be An Oscar For Performance Capture
And the Academy Award goes to...

The Boxtrolls Interviews: The Cast And Crew On Laika's Latest
Sir Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning and more talk stop-motion

How We Made The Boxtrolls
Directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable talk us through the challenges of bringing Laika’s latest to life

The Future Of Film: The War On Piracy Will End
Where Hollywood goes from here

Pride: Matthew Warchus & Stephen Beresford Interview
We talk to the director and writer of this year's Brit film breakout

Movie Poster Mashups: The Guardians Of The Galaxy Edition
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be appalled at the punning...

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)