Join us weekly as Rotten Tomatoes reports on what’s indie features are streaming. From promising releases by new voices to experimental efforts from storied filmmakers – or perhaps the next indie darling to go the distance for end-of-year accolades – we will break it all down for you here each week.
This week in our Indie Fresh List, we have a 70’s crime thriller, a drunken dark comedy, a mindbending relationship thriller, and a heartwarming documentary about kids writing to Santa. In our Spotlight section, we bring back Kindred along with a new interview with the film’s director, Joe Marcantonio. In our Indie Trailers section, we have new clips featuring The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby, Shia Labeouf, and Jason Segel.
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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Rachel Brosnahan stars in and produces the new ’70s crime thriller I’m Your Woman. Co-writer and director Julia Hart (Fast Color) is at the helm of this tale about a young woman married to a gangster who is then forced to grab her baby and head out on the run when he double-crosses the wrong people. This opening night selection from the 2020 Ameican Film Institute Film Festival is a gorgeous and stylish throwback to thrillers like The French Connection and Klute, and Brosnahan is brilliant in it. “The full gangster’s moll experience… but it drastically reorients this traditionally male genre to a female experience, and the result is something illuminating about the genre itself.” writes Katie Walsh of The Tribune News Service.
Available now in select theaters and on VOD.
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Aubrey Plaza takes the lead in another indie stunner with Black Bear, in which she plays Allison, a woman who journeys to a remote lake house to visit friends who have inherited a family retreat and escaped their life in the city. Battling writer’s block, Allison uses her time there to manipulate the troubled couple and conjure up the inspiration for her next semi-autobiographical work. Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon join Plaza with riveting performances in the mind-bending thriller; Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot writes, “With such fantastic performances and a bold commitment to defiant storytelling, it’s impossible to ignore the twisty, reckless ambition on display here.”
Available now in select theaters and on VOD.
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A 2020 selection from both the Toronto International and Cannes Film Festivals, as well as Denmark’s newly announced entry for the 2021 Academy Awards, Another Round is a dark comedy that will leave you smiling drunkenly through tears. Mads Mikkelsen turns in a hilarious and tragic performance in what Lewis Knight of the Daily Mirror calls “a riotous and thoughtful study of alcohol consumption that balances comedy and character study, anchored by a versatile lead performance from a top-form Mads Mikkelsen.”
Playing select theaters on December 4th and available on VOD December 18th.
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For over 100 years the Operation Santa Claus program of the United States Postal Service has sorted hundreds of thousands of letters to Old Saint Nick. Dear Santa, a perfect tearjerker doc to get you in the holiday spirit, pulls back the curtain on the long-running program to give voice to the countless government employees who literally help make dreams come true and spotlight the grateful children who get to keep believing in miracles. Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter writes, “Dear Santa delivers a desperately needed dose of holiday cheer during these troubled times that will leave even the most Grinch-like of viewers bathed in their own tears.”
Available now in select theaters and on VOD.
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Rosemary’s Baby and 1944’s Gaslight combine in this new horror tale from first-time director Joe Marcantonio featuring stellar performances from newcomer Tamara Lawrance and Killing Eve‘s Fiona Shaw. A young pregnant woman plagued by disturbing hallucinations begins to suspect the family caring for her has nefarious intentions for her unborn child. “With impressive, nuanced performances all round, this is a film that grips throughout despite its slow pace. You may decide early on that you know where it’s going, but the ending still makes an impact,” writes Jennie Kermode in Eye for Film. We recently chatted with Marcantonio about the film, the horrors of parenting, and what is on his Indie Fresh List.
Jacqueline Coley for Rotten Tomatoes: Is it better to do horror right now? It seems like horror as a genre might be a bit pandemic proof.
Joe Marcantonio: Kindred is a film that skirts many genres — there are funny bits, scary bits, thrilling bits, elements of suspense — but it isn’t a horror film in a traditional sense. There are no jump scares, maniacs, or monsters. I was inspired by the films of Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho, and the way that South Korean cinema manages to mix genres in really interesting and unique ways. Just look at how hard it is to categorize a film like Parasite.
Having said that, it’s clear that times of uncertainly or national trauma always seem to serve as a catalyst for interesting horror films. The Great Depression spawned Frankenstein and The Mummy in the ’30s, about the fear of the unknown. McCarthyism spawned Invasion of the Body Snatchers, about the potential infiltration of an insidious force. The Vietnam War spawned Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Exorcist, all about the breakdown of traditional family values. The War on Terror spawned the term “torture porn,” when there was so much talk about torture and whether it is ever justifiable. And recently the “Fake News” era seems to have produced recent films like His House and Saint Maud that have escapist fantasy elements yet deal with truth and lies. I guess Kindred potentially falls into the same camp. Watching scary films that reflect the society in some way enables people to experience their fears in a safe space, to feel scared or terrified yet retain some control. It acts as a catharsis at times of uncertainty.
Many have made the obvious Rosemary’s Baby comparisons, but what is it about motherhood and horror? Why can it twist into something terrifying so easily?
I remember how helpless I felt when I was first left at home in charge of my son, and how freaked out I was to be responsible for keeping such a vulnerable creature alive. We’d had a home birth, and when the midwife left and my wife was resting, I stood in the kitchen, holding him, not knowing what to do. The level of vulnerability and uncertainty was overwhelming, and if you add the anxiety and terror involved, it is very fertile ground for horror.
To be totally honest, the truth is that a lot of the characters in the film are reflecting my own experiences as a parent. There is a monologue that Margaret gives about her regrets as a parent, and there is an uncomfortable amount of truth in there about my feelings and mental health concerns in the wake of my daughter’s birth. It’s slightly traumatic for me to watch as, it feels very exposing and raw, but it’s probably my favorite scene in the film.
Talk about casting Tamara. So much of the film falls on her reaction, and was it always intended to have a Black female lead?
The script Jason and I wrote was always non-specific about race, simply because we were open to all possibilities. In the end, we cast Tamara because she was the best actress we saw, not because she was the best Black actress we saw. Maybe I was being naive to what some people’s reactions to that choice would be, but I’m very glad we picked her. She’s really terrific, a superb actor and a wonderful person. Race is such a prevalent talking point in the USA at the moment (and it’s an issue in the UK too), so I totally understand people reading a lot into that decision, but the film was always intended as one about the British class system and inherited wealth, rather than one about race. Margaret would hate anyone who tried to take her son away, whatever they looked like or race they were. Because of the decision to cast Tamara in the role, we’ve had a lot of comparisons to Get Out, and seem to have caught the ire of some reviewers who think that we were jumping on some kind of bandwagon, or attempting to copy that film in some way, but that was never the case. We do feature an old-fashioned teacup in Kindred, as they do in Get Out, but that’s only because the film is set in the UK and we drink a lot of tea! Margaret wouldn’t be caught dead drinking from a mug; it’s far too common.
The house is a big part of the drama of the film. How did you find the perfect location?
For a variety of reasons, we decided to shoot the film in Ireland, and their political history means that there were a lot of manor houses built by the English “landowners” that were initially installed by Oliver Cromwell and his cronies. But after Irish independence, a lot of the large houses were burned down or fell into disrepair. In England, a grand house like that would have a car park and a cafe, and they’d charge you a small fortune to walk around and look at the paintings. But their outlook on these things is different in Ireland, so we had a few good locations as options.
The house was always intended to be a character in the film, and I had a clear image in my mind about the kind of place we had to find. We found a few okay options, but kept hearing whispers about a place called “Stradbally.” A few people even suggested we shouldn’t go and look at it because of the associated cost problems; it is so far from Dublin you need to put crew up in hotels. But we drove out to visit, and as soon as we saw Stradbally Hall, I apologized to my producer because I knew this was the place and his job was going to get a lot harder. An upside to its remoteness is that not a lot of other people have shot there — I think the only shoot was a couple of scenes in the Lassie movie back in 2005. The guy who owns the house is called Thomas — coincidently, that is the same name as Jack’s character in the film. It felt like a sign.
The place looks haunted on its face. Did you feel that in real life?
It’s definitely a slightly spooky place. Most of the strange paintings and taxidermy in the film were actually situated around the house; boxing hedgehogs, foxes, ferrets — it was all quite odd. The owners are a friendly family with young kids, and they live in a small, modernized part of the house, but one member of the family still lives in that larger part of the house, and every now and then he’d unexpectedly walk past in his dressing gown and give you a bit of a fright.
What is on your Indie Fresh List — what independent films are you watching, or what are you watching in general?
I really enjoyed His House and Saint Maud — they are both genre films, and they feel very considered and cinematic in their approach. They avoid the “kitchen sink drama” feel that a lot of independent British films fall into. Parasite and Uncut Gems are my favorite films of the last year or so, and I just rewatched both series of Succession, which is so well written it makes me queasy.
Kindred is available now in select theaters and on VOD.
[movie_link_apple id=771531135 tmeter=true], a thriller about a woman on the run who is stalked by a violent predator. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534136 tmeter=true], a documentary that examines the fight against voter disenfranchisement.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534675 tmeter=true], a Spike Lee-directed concert documentary of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s live stage show.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517281 tmeter=true], a horror film about a young woman who gets a killer weave.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771512515 tmeter=true], a documentary biopic on famed jazz singer Billie Holiday.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771511898 tmeter=true], a dark rom-com about a sickly girl who falls for the town screw-up.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771521846 tmeter=true], a thriller about a girl left alone who must battle escaped convicts when they invade her vacation home.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771514802 tmeter=true], a drama about two childhood friends who are torn apart by gang violence.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534791 tmeter=true], a thriller about a widower recovering from a traumatic brain injury who undergoes experimental treatment. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771522227 tmeter=true], a rom-com about an aimless twenty-something who creates an art exhibit to showcase items from past relationships as a means to find closure.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517665 tmeter=true], a drama about a young man who is seduced by the Baltimore street bike community.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771508379 tmeter=true], a comedy about a pair of best friends whose relationship is tested when one of them gets involved with a woman.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771535052 tmeter=true], a horror film about a pair of siblings who discover something sinister when they return to their childhood home to care for their dying father.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517527 tmeter=true], an in-depth documentary about trans performers on screen.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771505272 tmeter=true], a comedy about a group of teens who head to the woods for a nature hike, and hijinks ensue.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517664 tmeter=true], about a middle-aged playwright who looks to re-invent herself by returning to her hip hop roots. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517656 tmeter=true], a documentary about the lawyers who work on landmark cases at the Supreme Court for the ACLU.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517033 tmeter=true], an intimate documentary on Civil Rights icon and politician John Lewis.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534886 tmeter=true], a powerful documentary on climate activist Greta Thunberg.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771512519 tmeter=true], about a trans woman who goes to extreme lengths to avoid deportation. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517673 tmeter=true], a drama about a former beauty queen who looks to recapture her glory through her rebellious daughter’s own pageant run.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517757 tmeter=true], a documentary about an artist who develops an unexpected friendship with one of the men who stole some of her paintings.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771520054 tmeter=true], about a group of female dial painters who take on the system after they discover their employer has been knowingly infecting them with deadly radium.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771501921 tmeter=true], a biopic about famed scientist Madame Curie.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517617 tmeter=true], a horror film centered on three generations of women as the elder matriarch suffers from Alzheimer’s.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771519151 tmeter=true], about an Ethiopian filmmaker who heads home from school to find his community is unrecognizable. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771521401 tmeter=true], a thriller about a pair of couples who discover they’re under surveillance while vacationing at a seaside rental.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771518604 tmeter=true], a coming-of-age romantic comedy about a wild night on a college campus. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771512613 tmeter=true], a sci-fi thriller about a pair of best friend EMTs who get caught up in a series of strange events while on duty.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517658 tmeter=true], a documentary about a woman’s fight to free her husband from prison. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534762 tmeter=true], a comedy about two former best friends who cross state lines to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771504523 tmeter=true], a sci-fi thriller about a young ham radio operator and a local DJ who hear a strange radio transmission.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517273 tmeter=true], an eye-opening doc about Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s improv hip-hop group. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771535332 tmeter=true], a dark comedy-thriller about a Sheriff who appears to be the only person not convinced the town is being terrorized by a werewolf.[/movie_link_apple]
A fictional re-telling of a famous night in history when Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali, and Jim Brown met up after Ali was crowned the Heavyweight Champion of the world in 1964.
Thumbnail image by ©Momentum Pictures