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Proposition 8: Jeremy Saulnier & Richard Ayoade Among Sundance Spotlight Films

Sundance’s Spotlight section works as a sampling of quality items that dug their knees in the sand of the Croisette, or hit the asphalt payment in Toronto. It’s an acknowledgment of U.S film distributors (in this case: Radius-TWC, Magnolia, Music Box Films, A24, Sony Pictures Classics, Strand Releasing) who’ve all contributed to my favorite disease – one that is called cinephilia. It’s also a look into 2014 – which is when they’ll be unveiled theatrically. And finally, it’s a way in which to receive the extended Sundance family once again such as Richard Ayoade (preemed his debut feautre here – Submarine) and Jeremy Saulnier (was at the fest as a cinematographer for Matthew Porterfield’s I Used to Be Darker). Here are the eight selections:

Blue Ruin / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeremy Saulnier) — A mysterious outsider’s quiet life turns upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving to be an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family. Cast: Macon Blair, Amy Hargreaves, Sidné Anderson, Devin Ratray, Kevin Kolack.

The Double / United Kingdom (Director: Richard Ayoade, Screenwriter: Avi Korine) — Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon, a timid and isolated man who is overlooked at work. When James, a new coworker arrives, he upsets the balance because he is both Simon’s physical double and his opposite: confident and good with women. Then James slowly starts taking over Simon’s life. Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor, Cathy Moriarty, James Fox.

Ida / Poland (Director: Pawel Pawlikowski, Screenwriters: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz) — Anna, a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland, is on the verge of taking her vows when she discovers a dark family secret dating back to the years of the Nazi occupation. Cast: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik.

Locke / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Steven Knight) — Locke is a feat of dynamic storytelling from Academy Award–nominated writer/director Steven Knight, anchored by Tom Hardy’s fantastic performance. Unfolding in real time, the film is a gripping story of choices, consequences, and a man who risks everything he holds dear to do the right thing. Cast: Tom Hardy, Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Tom Holland, Bill Milner.

The Lunchbox / India, France, Germany (Director and screenwriter: Ritesh Batra) — A mistake made by the dabbawallahs, Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox delivery system, connects a young housewife to a stranger in the dusk of his life. Through notes in the lunchbox, the two build a fantasy world that gradually threatens to overwhelm their reality. Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith, Bharati Achrekar, Nakul Vaid Nakul Vaid.

Only Lovers Left Alive / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jim Jarmusch) — Set against the desolation of Detroit and Tangier, an underground musician, depressed by the direction the world is taking, reunites with his lover. Their love story has endured for centuries, but the woman’s uncontrollable sister disrupts their idyll. Can these wise outsiders continue to survive as the world collapses around them? Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright.

R100 / Japan (Director and screenwriter: Hitoshi Matsumoto) — A mild-mannered family man with a secret taste for S&M finds himself pursued by a gang of ruthless dominatrices—each with a unique talent—in this hilarious and bizarre take on the sex comedy from Japanese comic mastermind Hitoshi Matsumoto. Cast: Nao Ohmori, Lindsay Kay Hayward, Hairi Katagiri.

Stranger by the Lake / France (Director and screenwriter: Alain Guiraudie) — Frank spends his summer searching for companionship at a lake in France. He meets Michel, an attractive, mysterious man and falls blindly in love. When a death occurs, Frank and Michel become the primary suspects. Stranger by the Lake is an erotic thriller testing the limits of sexual desire. Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d’Assumçao.

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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