Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke portray two people who meet on a train and feel a spark, in “Before Sunrise.”
By Vanessa Zimmer
Given that we just welcomed Baby New Year, it seems appropriate that three of our anniversary movies this month are toddlers.
Among the Sundance Film Festival alums celebrating a January release in theaters and/or on streaming services are two documentaries — one examining life in a large planned Florida retirement community, the other reflecting the world of those with nonspeaking autism. Both debuted at the 2020 Festival and then saw wide release in 2021. The third film is a bit younger, a Brazilian fiction work eerily mirroring pandemic life that was released to wider audiences a year after it debuted at the 2021 Festival.
Complementing those newer films from recent Sundance Film Festivals are a couple of favorites from earlier days — Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dog. The two feature admirable cast members, among them Ethan Hawke, Julie Delphy, and Ben Foster.
So, check out a few Festival films celebrating a January distribution release to the wide, wide world.
Before Sunrise (1995) — Director Richard Linklater strayed from his Slacker and Dazed and Confused vibe of past Sundance Film Festival movies with this romantic drama starring two other Festival veterans, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. American student Jesse (Hawke) and Frenchwoman Celine (Delpy) serendipitously meet on a train traveling through Europe, and decide to spend the day together before he heads back to the States. “Romantic yet provocative, and wonderfully enacted by two performers who are immensely appealing, Before Sunrise is a film which is full of life, love, perceptiveness, and memories,” Geoffrey Gilmore wrote in the Festival Film Guide. Available on HBO Max.
Alpha Dog (2007) — With a plot based on a true story and an amazing cast list (Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Ben Foster, Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis!), writer-director Nick Cassavetes delivers a cautionary tale about contemporary youth. Hirsch plays a teenage drug dealer whose gang kidnaps the 15-year-old brother of a competitor who cheated them. Suffice it to say, things spiral out of control. As Gilmore wrote in the Festival Film Guide: “[T]his is dense, galvanizing filmmaking, seething with tension and culminating in a tragedy that would be shocking if we weren’t so aware of the kind of world we live in, a place with kids who live without mores, parents who don’t have a clue, and ongoing conflict between the lingering innocence of youth and moral disintegration and dissolution.” Available to rent on Amazon Prime.
The Reason I Jump (2021) — Winner of the Audience Award in the World Documentary category at the 2020 Festival, this film shines a light on those with nonspeaking autism and how they experience the world. The story is based on a book written by Naoki Higashida when he was just 13. “As a maelstrom of thoughts, feelings, impulses, and memories affects his every action, [the boy in the book] gradually discovers what his autism means to him, how his perception of the world differs from others’, and why he acts the way he does — the reason he jumps,” according to the Festival Film Guide. Available on Netflix.
Some Kind of Heaven (2021) — This documentary explores The Villages, a utopian retirement community in Florida billed as “Disneyland for Retirees,” with bocce ball, mixers for singles, and a multitude of other social events. Director Lance Oppenheim “delicately balances the humor and absurdity of an outlandish setting with the deeply human experiences of those living within it,” according to the Festival Film Guide. Available on Hulu.
The Pink Cloud (2022) — When a mysterious toxic pink cloud descends over the world, a young couple, Giovana and Yago, who just met at a party, are trapped in an apartment. The quarantine stretches from days into months. “With all their other interactions governed by screens, and with the strain of isolation setting in, Giovana and Yago struggle to reinvent themselves and reconcile the differences that threaten to tear them apart,” explains the Festival Film Guide. Available on Freevee.