Saturday, January 30, 2021

Sundance with Abe: Superior

I’m thrilled to be covering the Sundance Film Festival for the eighth time. This year, I’m not in Park City, Utah, but watching films virtually and reviewing them as soon as I can.

Directed by Erin Vassilopoulos
U.S. Dramatic Competition

Identical twins share more than just the same face. Though those who know them well and spend a good deal of time with them can easily tell them apart, the way that they move and behave may not be distinguishable to more distant acquaintances and strangers. Different lifestyles and major decisions can drive them far apart and make them unrecognizable in every way except for physically, which is also not a guarantee with athletic and hairstyling choices, among other factors. Coming back together after many years of separation is sure to highlight the ways in which they are no longer the same while reminding them both of their intricate connection.

Vivian (Ani Mesa) lives a relatively boring life with her lackluster husband Michael (Jake Hoffman) in upstate New York. She is surprised by the sudden arrival of her twin sister Marian (Alessandra Mesa), who she has not seen in years. Running from her own demons, Marian embraces the opportunity to reconnect with Vivian, who is deeply curious about what her sister has been doing all of these years. Their reunion represents a calm of sorts for Marian’s chaotic lifestyle and a reinvigoration of Vivian’s as elements of both interact to bring them back to a point of closeness they haven’t felt in a long time.

This film has a very particular and moody style to it. Shot on 16mm, it feels timeless in a way that’s only made identifiable by the sight of certain vehicles and technology that can be used to place it. There is a foreboding tone that ensures that Marian can’t actually escape her dangerous associations, and that even the most seemingly docile moments, like those set in an ice cream shop, shouldn’t be seen as safe. Every setting feels appropriately bare and sparsely-populated, allowing these characters to express themselves and feel comfortable sharing a part of who they are with audiences through their movements and actions.

Director Erin Vassilopoulos’ follow-up to her 2015 short of the same name, which casts Ani and Alessandra in the same roles six years later, is a very worthwhile and intriguing endeavor. Both actresses are magnificent, offering up hints about their personalities and motivations through the little that they do so and the way they interact both with each other and with the men in their lives. The dark road traveled by the narrative may not be completely fulfilling, but it’s an extremely interesting, involving, and stylized exploration of identity and kinship.


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