Sundance Dispatch: Fire of Love, Leo Grande, Resurrection
A dispatch of three films from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Fire of Love
The brilliance of Fire of Love lies in its construction: subjects Katia and Maurice Krafft did not just explore and research and fall in love with volcanoes – they also filmed them. And so in one of Sundance’s standout films, director Sara Dosa mixes interviews of the married couple with their own archival footage. It’s a lot of the face they put on for the public; a bit of the man and woman as they lived and loved; and a whole lot of breathtaking footage of dormant, simmering, and, eventually, erupting volcanoes. Katia and Maurice dedicated – and ultimately sacrificed – their lives to the study of these geological behemoths. Following them all over the world, Fire of Love also digs underneath the fascination, working to understand what drove them to this deadly lifestyle, and the magnificent good that came of it. National Geographic scooped up the rights to the film and will put it out in theaters later this year. See it on the biggest screen you can find.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a chamber piece without feeling like a chamber piece; a bottle episode without the clear set-up of a bottle episode. The type of low-budget indie that knows how to extend itself, Leo Grande follows a series of hotel meetings between a retired widow (Emma Thompson) and a handsome young sex worker, Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack).
There’s an ease to Thompson and McCormack’s chemistry. Even when the generational gap brings tension – across different ideas of sex, pride, shame, and fulfillment – the two actors feel natural together. Katy Brand’s screenplay explores ideas of female sexuality, especially that of an older woman, that have largely been ignored in the past, and Emma Thompson offers one of her best, most daringly vulnerable performances in years. McCormack goes toe-to-toe with her, and director Sophie Hyde does the work to add depth to Leo Grande, making this a true two-hander. The film falters a bit in its second-act – the repetitive structure and manufactured emotional climax make things a bit too neat – but finishes on a stunning grace note.
In Resurrection, Margaret (Rebecca Hall) is a successful academic and single mother whose past returns to haunt her just as her only daughter is getting ready to go off to college.
Or does it?
The brilliance of writer-director Andrew Semans’ story is its willingness to embrace the ambiguity. For most of its runtime, Resurrection is neither over-the-top horror nor heavy-handed metaphor, but rather a sort of tie-dye of the two, a blending together that makes it impossible to determine where one stops and the other begins. Hall gives the performance of the festival, her confident façade slowly cracking until it all crumbles apart. One long-take monologue in particular is bravura yet heartrending, her face framed in nothing but darkness as she tells us her story.
Resurrection goes off the rails in its bonkers final 20 minutes. Semans seems confident of his ending, but for me it undermines much of what comes before. Despite this disappointing conclusion, Resurrection is a more than worthy vehicle for a stunning performance.