The Best and Worst of Sundance 2015 (Narrative Edition)

Still image from "Dope"


2. Dope

Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa’s wonderful debut film, 1999’s The Wood, was weirdly overshadowed by the thematically similar (and far inferior) The Best Man that same year. He’s been working quietly and sporadically ever since, waiting for the big breakthrough film. With any luck, this will be it. It’s a cinematic mixtape, equal parts Dear White People, Pulp Fiction, and Boyz N The Hood, but its tonal shifts and influences are smooth as silk, delivered at a fever pitch and with an abundance of wickedly quotable dialogue (the scene of gangstas discussing drone strikes legitimately recalls the “Royale with Cheese” conversation). It’s joyful and energetic, but the pathos and thoughtfulness of its closing passages reframe the picture as more than empty fun. What a tremendous movie.

1. Brooklyn

Comparisons have been drawn between one of last year’s best films, The Immigrant, and this, the best film I saw at Sundance. And they make sense; both tell immigrant stories, both are sumptuously photographed, and both will make you cry like an infant. But director John Crowley and writer Nick Hornby (working from Colm Toibin’s novel) are drawing from a very different emotional slate; few films in recent memory more evocatively convey the emotion and intensity of homesickness, and of how the place where you’re most comfortable can become an inescapable flypaper. It’s a warm and enormously empathetic movie, and Saoirse Ronan is intoxicating in the leading role.