New from Kevin Wozniak on Kevflix: 2021 Sundance Film Festival Reviews – CODA, Flee, Censor

Here are my reviews for the films CODAFlee, and Censor, which debuted at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

 

 

 

CODA (Vendôme Pictures and Pathé Films)

CODA

 

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival kicked off in the best way possible.  Sian Heder’s CODA is an absolute delight of a movie.  A funny, sweet, beautiful family story with a huge heart and great performances.

The film follows Rubi Rossi (Emilia Jones) a hearing child in a deaf family.  Because Rubi is the only in the family who can hear and speak, Rubi has taken responsibility for being the voice of the family.  She works with her father (Troy Kotsur) and her brother (Daniel Durant) on their fishing boat while her mother (Marlee Matlin) stays at home.  Rubi joins the school choir and catches the attention of her eccentric teacher Bernardo Villalobos (Eugene Derbez), who thinks that with a little work Rubi might be able to get into a prestigious music college, something that never crossed Rubi’s mind before.  Rubi is now torn between following her dreams and staying with her family.

Heder’s script is truly wonderful and gives us a beautiful coming-of-age story that looks at living with a deaf family and living in a deaf world.  It is full of heart and humor, filled with numerous laughs and moments that will bring tears to your eyes.  Heder pairs this story with an incredible soundtrack, capped off by a stunning rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”.

Emilia Jones gives a star-making performance as Rubi.  Jones sings, she signs, and shows full emotional range as Rubi and every note is pitch-perfect.  I loved every bit of her performance and think it is one that will leave a lasting impression on you.  Kotsur, Durant, and Matlin are all equally great and Derbez is a blast as Villalobos. My favorite part of Coda was the family comradery between the four of them.  You really buy into them as a family and feel every ounce of love and frustration that they feel towards each other.  Family is at the center of Coda and Heder picked a stellar cast to bring that to life.

Coda is a sensational way to start the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

 

 

FLEE (Neon)

FLEE

 

Flee is a documentary that shows the power of documentary filmmaking while also stretching the medium to new lengths.  It is a powerful, emotional, astonishing film that details the refugee experience as well as any movie I have ever seen.

Flee tells the extraordinary true story of a man named Amin, who is on the verge of marriage and tells the story of his life as an Afghani refugee growing up in the 80’s and the 90’s.

Due to our subject not wanting to be on camera, director Jonas Poher Rasmussen tells this story by mixing animation and archival footage while also adding touches of 80’s and 90’s pop hits.  When Amin was trying to seek refuge in Sweden, he was told by the man who smuggled him in that his life story was that his family had died and that he was alone, even though that was not true.  Amin has held on to this lie his entire life and uses this documentary to let go of the lie and bring out the true story of his upbringing and his family.  The animation is gorgeous, bright, and unique and conveys the story just as well as if it were not animated.

In the brief 83-minute runtime, we get a full grasp of who Amin was as a child and who he is as a man.  Growing up, Amin not only struggled living in war-torn Afghanistan and being a refugee for most of his young life, but also struggled with his family and coming to terms with his sexuality and not understanding why he was attracted to men, something that was not allowed in his country.  The way Amin tells his story gives us his full experience.  He explains what was going through his mind and what was happening to him and his family in detailed recollections.  Amin’s experience was brutal, terrifying, tragic, and inspirational.

Flee is a powerful, gripping, stunning documentary that is bound to be one of the best movies I see at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

 

 

CENSOR (Protagonist Pictures)

CENSOR

 

Censor is a bloody, mind-bending midnight movie that will have your head spinning long after the credits roll.

Enid (Niamh Algar) is a film censor who spends her days watching horrifically violent horror films and telling the producers of the film what moments are too violent and what needs to be cut.  After viewing a film that seems strangely familiar, Enid thinks that it might have something to do with the mysterious disappearance of her sister from many years ago, which sends her on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality.

This is writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond’s feature film debut, and it is one hell of a debut.  She shows that she has a true talent for atmosphere and tone, as the film feels like it was pulled right out of an old 80’s video store and has endless suspense and chills.  Bailey-Bond also never lets the film go too far off the rails.  You never quite know what is real and what isn’t throughout the movie, and though it does drag a bit in the middle, it really ramps up at the end to give us a shocking and bizarre finale.  Shout out to Algar’s captivating lead performance as Enid, as she convincingly goes from a woman who seems to have everything together, yet is desperate to find out what happened to her sister, to someone on the verge of breakdown.

Doused in blood, gore, chaos, and a true 80’s vibe, Censor is a great calling card movie Prano Bailey-Bond’s as a director.

 

 

 

 

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