Sundance 2023 doc review: ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ is an unexpectedly badass victory cry

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

In search of someone else with the same physical condition, Ella Glendining takes us on a thoughtful journey in Sundance 2023 documentary IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

The editing combined with the score creates a charming and deeply affecting quality. Confessional diary logs place us in Ella’s headspace. She uses home videos and sit-down chats with her Mum and Dad about what it was like to raise her. Seeking specialists and families with the same disability offers Ella more questions than answers. We follow Ella through an unexpected pregnancy. Her gorgeous son River and the Covid 19 pandemic change how she views potential surgery options. As she speaks to others via Zoom, she contemplates the appreciation of her body.

The discussion of ableism is paramount to understanding Ella’s life and any family with a differently abled member. I am the mother of a seven-year-old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I suspect that with his off-the-charts cognitive abilities, the more precise diagnosis is Aspergers. I appreciated Ella and her best friend Naomi’s honest discussions about her autism and the challenges of an invisible disability. Each admits they cannot fully understand the inner workings of one another’s feelings and worry they have inadvertently said horrible things to one another. Understanding the staring, judgment, and how it pierces the heart cannot be ignored. That is also why the conversations with Ella’s parents resonated with me. Like Ella seeking someone to connect to, her Mum and Dad were touchstones for me.

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? tackles outdated stereotypes and deep-seated trauma, but also optimism. I hope Ella Glendining understands the gravity of her film. I have to thank her for sharing her life, and I look forward to sharing her story with my son when he is a bit older. IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? celebrates individualism and isn’t that the ultimate goal?


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE
    Jan. 22 3:00PM MST

    Prospector Square Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 3:00PM MST

    Park Avenue Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 25 12:00PM MST

    Park Avenue Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 26 5:30PM MST

    Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway 6

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 27 2:30PM MST

    Holiday Village Cinemas – 1

    PARK CITY

Online

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 8:00AM MST

    Available Until Jan. 29  11:55PM MST


     

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.