Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant star in “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
By Vanessa Zimmer
In addition to the causal relationship between April showers and May flowers, good ol’ rain also serves other purposes.
In filmmaking, for example, a rain scene may have a cleansing effect, washing away uncertainties and poorly chosen words, leaving behind pure and honest confessions of truth. Or, rain can beat down mercilessly, amping up emotions and urgency and tension.
The following films, all from past Sundance Film Festivals, contain rain scenes of significance to the story. We’ll leave it to you to determine which kind of rain goes with each of these Sundance alums.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994 Sundance Film Festival) — Noncommittal British bachelor (Hugh Grant) keeps running into elusive American woman (Andie MacDowell) at formal occasions. They seem favorably matched, but then again, maybe not. Especially when one of those formal occasions is her wedding. The film, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, was directed by Mike Newell and written by Richard Curtis, whose screenplay was also nominated for an Oscar. Check out viewing options here.
Killers (1997 Sundance Film Festival) — Director Mike Mendez launched a career in horror films with this debut feature about two notorious killers, the James brothers, who escape from prison and, in the midst of a storm, with the cops on their tail, break into a home and take the family hostage. But, as it turns out, they may have met their match. “With the fascination for showcase trials and murderers as its backdrop, this truly inspired lunacy will have the audience alternately laughing and jumping out of their seats,” according to the Festival Program Guide. Check out viewing options here.
Garden State (2004 Sundance Film Festival) — Zach Braff wrote, directed, and starred in Garden State as the young man who returns home for his mother’s funeral, finally decides to go off his heavy antidepressant medications, and meets a young woman (Natalie Portman) with some equally large problems. “Only the exceptionally talented can prompt laughter while also provoking those deep feelings within us for the human frailty on the screen” wrote Geoffrey Gilmore in the Festival Program Guide. “Garden State is that kind of rare film.” Check out viewing options here.
The Yellow Handkerchief (2008 Sundance Film Festival) — Three strangers (William Hurt, Eddie Redmayne, and Kristen Stewart) take a road trip in a convertible. “What ensues is a journey through the lush green byways of rural Louisiana and into the depths of these characters’ souls,” Caroline Libresco wrote in the Festival Program Guide. Maria Bello also stars. Directed by Udayan Prasad; based on a story by Pete Hamill. Check out viewing options here.
Adventureland (2009 Sundance Film Festival) — James (Jesse Eisenberg) had planned a glorious European trip to celebrate his college graduation. But when his parents confess they don’t have the money to support his trip, he takes a going-nowhere job at the amusement park. Who knew cotton candy might fuel the ultimate in realistic life experiences? The cast includes Kristen Stewart, Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Wiig, and Martin Starr. “Adventureland is a hilarious coming-of-age tale that will speak to anyone who ever had the job from hell but still wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” Trevor Groth wrote in the Festival Program Guide. Written and directed by Greg Mottola. Check out viewing options here.
The Lifeguard (2013 Sundance Film Festival) — Leigh (Kristen Bell) graduated at the top of her high school class and became a journalist in New York City. When the going gets tough, the 29-year-old moves back to her parents’ home in Connecticut and resumes her high school job as a lifeguard. Then, she embarks on a steamy, dangerous relationship with a handsome teenager. “With her witty, emotionally persuasive script, first-time director Liz Garcia invents a delectable coming-of-age story for our times,” according to the Festival Program Guide. Check out viewing options here.
The Way, Way Back (2013 Sundance Film Festival) — Duncan is 14, awkward, and struggling to fit in. He accompanies his mother (Toni Collette) and her obnoxious boyfriend (Steve Carrell) on summer vacation. Things may never be the same. “Mining the caverns of human vulnerability for the humor necessary to make life bearable, first-time directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have transformed their terrific screenplay into a bittersweet comedy that is both charming and insightful,” according to the Festival Program Guide. Check out viewing options here.
Mudbound (2017 Sundance Film Festival) — Dee Rees directs this powerful story of two young men, one white and one Black, who return home after World War II to find it’s no easier to fight the battles of everyday life on Mississippi farmland. For Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), at least war softened the lines between Black and white. Garrett Hedlund, Jonathan Banks, Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, and Carey Mulligan also star. Rees and Virgil Williams co-wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Hillary Jordan. Nominated for four Oscars, for Blige’s performance, the adapted screenplay, original song, and cinematography. Check out viewing options here.
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (2023 Sundance Film Festival) — Writer-director Raven Jackson chooses a quiet, nontraditional storytelling style — a lyrical, visual, and nonlinear expression of one Black woman’s life in Mississippi. “Shifts in time are prompted by movement and emotion — the feeling of mud between fingers or the release felt from being outside during a storm. … Jackson employs the power of touch to communicate what evades spoken language,” according to the Festival Program Guide. “It’s an embodied experience that honors the sumptuousness of life and leaves you feeling the rain on your skin.” The film is scheduled to be released this year.