Tribeca Festival 2021 capsule reviews: ‘Settlers’, ‘Glob Lessons’, and ‘7 Days’

Settlers

Mankind’s earliest settlers on the Martian frontier do what they must to survive the cosmic elements and each other.

Undeniably riveting, Settlers pits one family unit against another. Brooklynn Prince, who burst onto the scene in The Florida Project, captivates as a child whose survival depends on the lies she’s been fed by adults. Sofia Boutella skillfully plays her mother and ardent protector. As the reality of the situation of humanity is slowly revealed, the peril grows for everyone involved. Settlers is a film about trust, through and through. As time passes, Remmy’s role is taken over by Nell Tiger Free. She must navigate loneliness, and more importantly, the advances of the man who keeps her both alive and captive. Settlers’ unique script by director Wyatt Rockefeller allows us to question what we would do when faced with extreme circumstances. The landscape beautifully mimics the surface of Mars. Its desolate surroundings create palpable isolation and ceaseless desperation. The addition of a robotic character is the only thing that brings levity. Ismael Cruz Córdova as Jesses walks a precarious line between savior and villain. His beliefs steer the story into the darkest regions of human nature. Settlers is worth the watch for extraordinary performances and one hell of a feature debut from Rockefeller.

DIRECTOR
Wyatt Rockefeller
CAST

Sofia Boutella, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brooklynn Prince, Nell Tiger Free, Jonny Lee Miller


Glob Lessons

Two mismatched strangers confront their fears of intimacy and inadequacy as they tour low-budget children’s theatre out of a minivan across the frozen Upper Midwest.

Nicole Rodenburg and Colin Froeber give us every emotion on screen. As a theater major, I know Jesse and Alan. But as a human being, everyone will know them. The concept of pouring your soul into your passion with little in return is universal, be it children’s theatre or any other occupation. There is a fine line between love and loathing. The laughs are plenty lying within awkward non-conversation and road movie tropes. Tension and tolerance levels eventually come to a head with creativity as their savior. In Glob Lessons, the moments of genuine intimacy between Froeber and Rodenburg grab hold of the viewer. Jesse and Alan are fleshed-out characters. At times they are pathetic, other times endearing. The chemistry between Froeber and Rodenburg is the stuff of movie magic. Glob Lessons isn’t flashy and that’s the point. Life is messy. Let’s own it. I am excited to see what comes next from a voice like Rodenburg’s. If Glob Lessons is any indication, we’ll be seeing more very soon.

 

DIRECTOR
Nicole Rodenburg
SCREENWRITER

Colin Froeber, Nicole Rodenburg


7 Days

As if their pre-arranged date, organized by their traditional Indian parents, wasn’t uncomfortable enough, Ravi and Rita are forced to shelter in place together as COVID-19’s reach intensifies.

This film snuck up on me. Filmed during lockdown and using COVID as a major plot point, 7 Days turns the concept of traditional arranged marriage on its head. Geraldine Viswanathan brings the laughs as Rita. Breaking the mold of the dutiful would-be bride, she begrudgingly comes to Ravi’s rescue with little to no hope of being his match. Karan Soni, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Roshan Sethi, plays straight-laced, Ravi.  As boredom sets in and guards are let down, a genuine connection slowly develops. The chemistry between Viswanathan and Karan feels grounded and made for some incredibly memorable moments. 7 Days is funny and heartfelt. I was not expecting the darker turn in the script. It was a bold move that paid off in spades. Filmed mostly in one room created the tension and awkwardness we needed to experience alongside Rita and Ravi. It takes the idea of close quarters to the extreme. 7 Days is a true gem from this year’s festival.

DIRECTOR
Roshan Sethi
SCREENWRITER
Karan Soni, Roshan Sethi
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Roshan Sethi, Karan Soni, Geraldine Viswanathan

Tribeca Festival 2021 reviews: ‘See For Me’ and ‘Shapeless’ feature women battling different inner demons.

SEE FOR ME

When blind former skier Sophie cat-sits in a secluded mansion, three thieves invade for the hidden safe. Sophie’s only defense is army veteran Kelly. Kelly helps Sophie defend herself against the invaders and survive.

See For Me takes the home invasion genre and adds a surprising element; the leading lady’s morality. Rightfully bitter, having lost her sight, Sophie pushes everyone away in hopes of remaining independent. Part of that behavior also includes sticky fingers during her cat-sitting gigs. When trouble arises, Sophie begrudgingly takes her mother’s advice. She downloads an app allowing another person to look through the user’s cell phone camera to assist them in tasks. This comes in handy when Sophie is confronted with home invaders. Although, her best chance of survival comes with a moral caveat.

Skyler Davenport as Sophie is outstanding. Her temperament and ability to put the audience in her shoes make this as successful as it is. Alongside Jessica Parker Kennedy‘s confident performance, the two have unshakeable chemistry, even if they never meet face to face. See For Me is a thoroughly engaging thriller. You’re immediately hooked by the premise. Director Randall Okita invites us into Sophie’s world. With wide-angle shots, we experience immediate terror. Slowly lumbering killers in the same frame, all unbeknownst to Sophie, gives the film energy akin to the Friday The 13th franchise. Plus, two women fighting in tandem in a completely fresh way enhanced the home invasion trope. See For Me has a solid feminist vibe.  A thriller with a side of morality? That’s good stuff.

(**World Premiere**) – Tribeca Online Premieres

Director: Randall Okita
Cast: Laura Vandervoort, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Skyler Davenport, Kim Coates, Pascal Langdale, Joe Pingue, George Tchortov

 


SHAPELESS

Ivy, a struggling singer in New Orleans trapped in the hidden underworld of her eating disorder, must face her addiction – or risk becoming a monster.

A huge aspect of eating disorders is the idea of control. What happens when that obsession changes who you are? Perfectly titled, Shapeless creates a slow-burn dread that consumes the viewer. If you can stomach the content, good for you. I mean this quite literally. Director Samantha Aldana adds a precise feminine touch. Ivy’s physical and emotional self-destruction is incredibly familiar. Seemingly small moments, like secretly borrowing clothes or the careless nature of her personal relationships, reveal a fuller picture.

Kelly Murtagh is outstanding in the role she wrote alongside Bryce Parsons-Twesten. Her exhaustion and frustration are palpable. This certainly comes from Murtagh’s own experiences with an eating disorder.  Admittedly, as a genre fan, the most intriguing aspect of Shapeless is the progressive body horror. I yearned for more. The prosthetic makeup lands somewhere between grotesque and whimsical. It captures the essence of Shapeless at every turn. The final scene is nothing short of heartbreaking, honest, and terrifying. Bravo.

(**World Premiere**) – Midnight

Director: Samantha Aldana
Writers: Kelly Murtagh, Bryce Parsons-Twesten
Cast: Jamie Neumann, Marco Dapper, Kelly Murtagh, Bobby Gilchrist, Erika Ashley, Gralen Bryant Banks, Zardis Nichols

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘Claydream’ is an inspiring and nuanced documentary.

Claydream

A modern-day Walt Disney, Will Vinton picked up a ball of clay and saw a world of potential. Known as the “Father of Claymation,” Vinton revolutionized the animation business during the 80s and 90s. But after 30 years of being the unheralded king of clay, Will Vinton’s carefully sculpted American dream came crumbling down.

The documentary Claydream is about the life and legacy of an artist with whom a great deal of GenXers and Millenials are familiar, even if we didn’t know it. Born in 1980, I grew up in front of Saturday morning cartoons and wildly colorful commercials. Will Vinton is responsible for some of my most vivid memories as a child and most definitely for my infatuation with claymation. Because of Claydream, I have a name and face to thank.

Claydream mixes home videos and interviews alongside clips and lastly court depositions. This story is so wild. Vinton created, quite literally, a cinematic movement by experimenting, pushing claymation beyond its original representation. In ’85, The Adventures of Mark Twain made me interested in Twain’s printed stories. But it appears I was the exception. I was also a huge fan of Labyrinth. These are sophisticated, darker, and more complex storylines for a child to ingest. I’m so thankful that Will didn’t get discouraged by its poor reception. Then we may not have had gems like The California Raisins or The Noid.

But Will doesn’t stop there. When Claymation falls out of style, Will Vinton Studios shift their creativity once again. Conflict arises with another entrepreneur. Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike, is a villain. There is no other way to look at it. When you witness the behavior from the horse’s mouth, your jaw will drop. It’s unapologetic nepotism. I’m angry for Will Vinton Studios, even as Vinton himself showed little to no outward emotion. Thus proving he’s a better person than I will ever be.

Claydream deserves to be watched on the largest screen possible. The artistry should be out on a pedestal, forever. It’s a story of one man’s dream realized and of one man’s dream stolen. Will Vinton is responsible for inspiring innumerable future creatives. His graciousness is to be emulated. What a brilliant human being.

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To’ proves blood is thicker than water.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds over care for their frail and sickly younger brother.

Isolation, survival, depression, organized chaos. These are heavy-hitting words to describe a film with a blunt force trauma of an opening. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a film that’s been on everyone’s lips for a year now. It’s been killing it on the festival circuit, and rightly so. This slow-burn horror puts three siblings at odds due to one’s unique affliction. Jesse has become the taskmaster Mamabird, driving the survival of her family. Dwight is stuck between resentment and loyalty as his patience is running out. Youngest brother Thomas just wants to break free of his physical and emotional prison. Stunted in every way possible, what would life look like without his elder siblings? Is blood thicker than water? My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To begs that very question, quite literally.

Patrick Fugit as Dwight is heartbreaking. The cracks are evident from the very beginning. His conscience weighs on him as his desire for normalcy and peace are all-consuming. Ingrid Sophie Schram as Jesse is everything we need her to be. Focused and utterly exhausted. The survival of this family unit is driven by her sense of duty and not necessarily by love this many years in. She and Fugit are brilliant scene partners. Owen Campbell as Thomas is a nuanced mix of childlike and monster. You simultaneously sympathize and loathe him. These are striking performances.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To has a finale that will first crush you then slowly, you’ll start to breathe again. It’s the perfect catharsis. Writer-director Jonathan Cuartas gives us every single emotion in this script. It’s meticulously thought out. To think that this is a feature debut sends shivers down my spine in anticipation of what’s next. How this story manages to walk the line between horror and morality tale is simply genius. You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors. Some are better left closed.

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘False Positive’ is horrifyingly twisted and now available on HULU.

FALSE POSITIVE

Lucy and Adrian find their dream fertility doctor in the illustrious Dr. Hindle. But after becoming pregnant, Lucy begins to notice something sinister behind Hindle’s charm, and she sets out to uncover the unsettling truth about him.

It took 8 months to get pregnant with my son. In the grand scheme for a lot of women, that isn’t long at all. Since I turned 35 in the first month of my pregnancy, it was deemed a “geriatric pregnancy.” That felt about as awesome as you might imagine. Growing a human being is stressful enough without the constant barrage of opinions. People telling you what you can and cannot eat, how you should parent, and what you should be feeling. It’s super fun. And by that, I mean it sucks, just in case you didn’t catch the heavy-handed sarcasm. Tribeca Festival 21 film FALSE POSITIVE takes all of that anxiety and cranks it to 11. Ilana Glazer and Justin Theroux play Lucy and Adrian, a couple that has a personal connection with a famed fertility doctor. From the moment Lucy gets a glimpse of her baby on the sonogram, she knows something is very, very wrong.

The script does a solid job setting the stage with the misogyny and gaslighting thrust upon pregnant women. While the internet can be their worst enemy (for the love of God, stay away from WebMD) a mother has instincts that she should never ignore. False Positive smartly plays upon those anxieties and adds highly macabre stakes. You’re not quite sure what is real. It’s intensely dark. Ilana Glazer is pitch-perfect at every turn. Cast her in every genre, right now. Justin Theroux is a fantastic foil. You feel the skin-crawling vibe he unleashes once the audience is placed in Lucy’s shoes. His straight man act makes him all the more unsettling. Dr. Hindle is played brilliantly by Pierce Brosnan. His charm and calmness are grossly offputting even through his perfect smile.

False Positive will hit differently for women with or without fertility issues. It will also have a unique reaction from genre fans. It’s a multifaceted feature from director John Lee, who also wrote the script with Ilana Glazer. While the finale is so batshit crazy it may make your head spin, I can attest that you will not be able to get the images out of your head. They are seared into my brain. I’m still shuddering a week later.

Hulu & A24 will release

FALSE POSITIVE

as a Hulu Original Film on

June 25, 2021