Films from Sundance London 2023

Feature by Carlie Newman

In the weekend that Passages, Past Lives and Scrapper go on general release, it seems the right time to re-visit some of the films that were shown at the recent SUNDANCE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2023.

In addition to these three movies, others have already opened or are scheduled to be released in the near future.

Past Lives

So let’s look first at PAST LIVES: a quiet, almost unobtrusive film that relies on its characters to show their feelings and transmit their inner thoughts to the audience.

Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) are childhood friends. They part when Nora moves with her family to Canada. 12 years later Nora is living in New York and Hae Sung at home. The get back together again through FB and have a kind of romance using Skype. Realising that neither of them wants to travel to meet in person, Nora breaks off the relationship.

12 years after this, Hae Sung goes to New York and meets up with Nora. Now in their 30s, Nora has a husband and the 2 are very different from the children they once were and the students they became.

Flawless acting from the 2 leads and sensitive writing and directing by Celine Song make this one of the best movies to be shown at Sundance London this year.


Another well-constructed film is PASSAGES, a love triangle that takes place in Paris and is very different from the usual Rom-Com. Ira Sachs presents a film starring Frank Rogowski as a film director called Tomas. He’s married to Martin played by Ben Whishaw. The two have some kind of open relationship which allows Martin to receive the news that Tomas has had sex with a woman quite equably. The woman in question is Agathe (Adele Exarchopoulos), who is as free and open as Thomas to having sex.

The relationship between Thomas and Martin is well brought out by the director, and also, of course , by the two actors who have scenes of a sexual nature as well as emotional conversations. Agathe is is well characterised by Exarchopoulos, who brings her own personality into her scenes with Thomas. Well-directed by Sachs and very well acted by the three leads, this is an unusual film that will give you an insight into a different kind of love triangle.


Following the film Aftersun, we have another father and daughter movie, SCRAPPER. The film is set in London. Georgie (Lola Campbell), age, 12, lives alone after her mother dies, she manages to deceive Social Services, who believes she has been cared for. When her carefree father, Jason (Harris, Dickinson) arrives, she is not at all happy to see him. She prefers to continue leading the life she has been living with her friend Ali (ALIN UZUN), talking playing and stealing bicycles to sell for money

In her feature debut, Charlotte Regan, gives us a film, that’s lively and seemingly honest in its depiction of a young girl, struggling firstly to live alone, and grieve by herself for her mother, and then to form a new relationship with a father she has not known. Regan has managed to produce a really moving, intelligent and sensitive performance by young Lola Campbell.


FAIRYLAND is a very different father and daughter film. Here we have the autobiographical story of Alyssa Abbott. Andrew  Durham has adapted the book keeping the main characters as the author depicted.

Starting in the 1970s, we meet the young Alyssa (Nessa Dougherty) who, following the sudden death of her mother, moves with her father, Steve (Scoot McNairy) to San Francisco. They move into a bohemian apartment and Steve begins to date gay men. He gives Alyssa lots of freedom to do what she wants while he pursues his bohemian lifestyle. Often she finds it difficult and would prefer to have her father support her more. Alyssa is often mocked by other young people because her father dates men.

She leaves school to spend time studying in France. Now played by Emilia Jones, Alyssa is called back to San Francisco by her father when he becomes ill with AIDS. It’s now the 80s and the illness is beginning to hit the gay community hard.

Durham captures the relationship between father and daughter, and also gives us a view of the context of the AIDS plague, which spread quickly throughout the US and was particularly disastrous in San Francisco.

There are poignant scenes between Alyssa and her dad, not only when she nurses him through his illness, but also when she is a child and feels neglected as Steve pursues romance with various boyfriends.

It’s a very well-made film, and there are terrific performances, particularly by young Nessa Doherty. The film is well worth catching now it is on general release.