Not to knock Spidey (and the X-Men, and Captain America, and the Guardians of the Galaxy…) but it’s easy to feel some — or a lot — of superhero fatigue at this time of year. And the Big Summer Movie season has barely gotten started! Below, TOH! calls your attention to ten great indie films hitting theaters this summer. They’re just what the doctor ordered.
1. “Ida” (May 2). Pawel Pawlikowski’s tale of a young nun in late 1950s Poland who discovers her Jewish heritage is hands-down the most gorgeous film of the year. Shot in black-and-white and incorporating an unusual framing device (Pawlikowski puts his subjects at the bottom corners of the frame, emphasizing the weight of the past hanging over them), the film features pitch-perfect performances from veteran Polish star Agata Kulesza and newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska. The trailer is here.
2. “The Double” (May 9). In dual roles, Jesse Eisenberg knocks it out of the park as a joyless, essentially invisible data clerk who’s sent into a nightmarish spiral by the arrival of his far more charming doppelganger. Writer/director Richard Ayoade’s inescapably gloomy dystopia crackles with nifty production design, mordant comedy and a honeyed supporting turn from Mia Wasikowska as the object of Eisenberg’s lovesickness. (Here’s our review.)
3. “Night Moves” (May 30). Director Kelly Reichardt’s most accessible film to date, this finely chiseled, old-fashioned thriller stars Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard as a band of radical environmentalists whose small act of eco-terrorism spawns a Dostoevskian fallout for all. Brooding beneath utterly natural performances and stylish genre trappings is an elemental story of guilt and impossible redemption. (Our review is here.)
4. “Obvious Child” (June 6). Jenny Slate is charismatic and funny as hell in Gillian Robespierre’s subversive romantic comedy about a hapless Brooklyn comedian who decides to get an abortion. Neither heavy-handed nor overly flip, this film is a model example of how to do smart genre. Our TOH! review is here.
5. “The Rover” (June 13). We haven’t seen this one yet, but how could we not be excited for the followup film by the director of 2010’s brilliant crime drama “Animal Kingdom”? Director David Michod again works with Guy Pearce, who stars opposite Robert Pattinson in a thriller playing out in the post-apocalyptic harsh Australian desert.
6. “Snowpiercer” (June 27). Bong Joon-ho’s badass, lyrically shot apocalyptic re-imagining of the popular French graphic novel is about as close to a synthesis of “big” movie and “small” movie that you’ll find this summer. And, as it turns out, it’s great. Chris Evans abandons his Captain America prettiness for a scruffy beard and die-hard politics as he leads a band of rebels through the increasingly affluent compartments of a train to hit the breaks on the vessel’s wealth disparity. Tilda Swinton has delicious fun as the despicable villain. Our TOH! review is here.
7. “Boyhood” (July 11). This is a movie you have never seen before. Backed by IFC and shot for two weeks every summer over the course of 12 years, director Richard Linklater chronicles a boy’s life from age six through his graduation from high school at age 18. The boy is played by Ellar Coltrane, with Lorelei Linklater as his sister; his parents are well-drawn through marriage breakup and beyond by Ethan Hawke (“Sunrise” trilogy) and Patricia Arquette. The film wowed both critics and audiences at Sundance and is building some Oscar buzz. (Here’s our SXSW review.)
8. “Happy Christmas” (July 25). Joe Swanberg proves that his Mumblecore characters can mature in this funny, quietly moving portrait of family problems at Christmastime. The director reunites with ace Anna Kendrick as a young woman adrift who crashes the peacefulness of her brother (Swanberg) and his wife’s (Melanie Lynskey) home. Swanberg’s rotund baby Jude makes his screen debut, and steals the show. Our TOH! review is here.
9. “A Most Wanted Man” (July 25). TOH! didn’t catch this one at Sundance, but based on trade reviews, Anton Corbijn’s film is a taut espionage thriller starring the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman in a terrific turn as a German mastermind. (Hoffman’s other film at Sundance, “God’s Pocket,” is unfortunately a must-to-avoid.) Check out the trailer for “A Most Wanted Man” here.
10. “The One I Love” (August 15). Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass star as a married couple struggling to recapture their romance at a relaxing California retreat in this delightfully twisty relationship drama by rookie helmer Charlie McDowell (son of Malcolm). Let’s just say they get more than they bargain for, thanks to their marriage counselor played by Ted Danson (married to Charlie’s mom Mary Steenbergen). (Our Sundance interview with Moss is here.)