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The 10 Indie Films You Must See This May

The 10 Indie Films You Must See This May

As an extension of our recent summer movie preview,
Indiewire is offering the first of four monthly summer “must-see” lists
to make cinematic decision-making as easy as possible this summer.

From James Gray to James Franco double doses of both Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska (including together in the aptly titled “The Double”), check
out Indiewire’s picks for your 10 best options, and then check out May’s full calendar, as there are many worthy films that didn’t end up making this list.

1. The Immigrant (May 16)

Director: James Gray
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner
Distributor: TWC

Criticwire Average: 25 critics gave it a B+ average

Is It a “Must See?” James Gray is shaping up to be one of the most
interesting and divisive directors working today, and his new film “The
Immigrant” sees him moving further into classical territory. A melodrama
starring Cotillard as an immigrant woman tricked into burlesque and
prostitution by the charming scoundrel Bruno (Phoenix) before falling
for his cousin, the magician Orlando (Renner). The film has been
received rapturously in some circles, and Gray’s outspoken denigration
of his detractors only makes the project that much more fascinating.
Plus, Gray’s last film with Phoenix, “Two Lovers,” is absurdly underseen
and could arguably be seen as the start of Phoenix’s recent run of
superlative, Daniel Day-Lewis caliber performances.

Watch the trailer below:

2. Tracks (May 23)

Director: John Curran
Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Jessica Tovey, Emma Booth, Rainer Bock,
Melanie Zanetti, Robert Coleby, Tim Rogers, John Flaus
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Criticwire Average: 9 critics gave it a B+ average


Is It a “Must See?” In 1975, a soul-searching young Australian woman
named Robyn Davidson set out to travel solo from Alice Springs across
the vast, empty desert to reach the Indian Ocean some 2,000 miles away.
Aided only by a trio of camels and her dog, Davidson eventually
completed the voyage and wrote a popular National Geographic article
about her experiences with photographs by Rick Smolan, who occasionally
accompanied her. The details of that expedition form the core of
“Tracks,” John Curran’s expressionistic adaption of Davidson’s voyage.
True to the nature of the experience, “Tracks” largely involves its
protagonist trekking across a vacant landscape with occasional stops
along the way. With Mia Wasikowska in the lead role, Davidson herself
comes across as a wholly believable dreamer whose frustrations with the
pat nature of the civilized world imbue her mission with an engrossing
purpose. “I was at home nowhere,” she says in the opening voiceover,
setting the stage for both the strengths and weaknesses of this
beautifully realized drama.

Watch the trailer below:

3. Night Moves (May 30)

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard
Distributor: Cinedigm

Criticwire Average: 12 critics gave it a B average

Is It a “Must See?” Kelly Reichardt is one of the best directors
working today, and she’s just coming off of the 2010 masterpiece “Meek’s
Cutoff.” Her latest, involving Eisenberg, Fanning and Sarsgaard as a
trio of radical activists planning to blow up a dam, was met with warm
reception at Venice and Toronto, and it looks to give Eisenberg and
Fanning in particular new challenges as actors. Here’s hoping that
Reichardt keeps up her winning streak.

Watch the trailer below:

4. Cold in July (May 23)

Director: Jim Mickle
Cast: Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell
Distributor: IFC Films

Criticwire Average: 13 critics gave it a B+ average

is it a “Must See”? With “Dexter” over, Michael C. Hall is making a bigger break for it as a big screen actor, playing the lead in the gritty indie thriller “Cold in July,” directed by Jim Mickle (“Stake Land,” “We Are What We Are”). The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, just got programmed for Cannes’ Directors’ Fortinight sidebar, and opens in limited release and on VOD on May 23.  It sees Hall play a Texan who kills an intruder and when the victims’ father comes a-knockin’, all hell breaks loose.

Watch the trailer below:

5. Ida (May 2)

Director:  Pawel Pawlikowski
Cast: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska
Distributor: Music Box Films

Criticwire Average: 25 critics gave it a B+ average


Is It a “Must See?” Shot entirely in black and white, the film tells
the story of a young woman named Anna. Orphaned as a child, Anna grew up
in a convent and is preparing to become a nun. Before she can take her
vows, however, she is told that she must pay a visit to her only living
relative, who turns out to be her mother’s sister, Wanda. Upon meeting
Wanda, Anna makes a shocking discovery — that she is, in fact, of
Jewish background and her birth name is Ida. Together, Anna/Ida and
Wanda must come to terms with their family’s painful past and their own
uncertain future.

Watch the trailer below:

6. The Double (May 9)

Director: Richard Ayoade
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor
Distributor: Magnolia

Criticwire Average: 14 critics gave it a B+ average


is it a “Must See”?  Following up his wonderful directorial debut
“Submarine,” British comedian and filmmaker Richard Ayoade literally
doubles up for his darker follow-up, “The Double.” Loosely based on
Dostoevsky’s 1846 novella, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg as both
miserable introvert Simon James and James Simon, his affable
doppelgänger and essential polar opposite.  As the relationship between
the two men spirals out of control, “The Double” confirms Ayoade as a
considerable new voice in comedic cinema. It’s also aided by a
remarkable supporting cast, including the likes of Wallace Shawn, Mia
Wasikowska (who like Jesse Eisenberg is everywhere this May), Sally Hawkins, Paddy Considine,
and Chris O’Dowd.

Watch the trailer below:

7. Chef (May 9th)

Director: Jon Favreau
Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin
Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey,
Distributor: Open Road Films

Criticwire Average: 9 critics gave it a B average

is it a “Must See”? It’s nice to see Jon Favreau apply the same brand
of comedy, wit and fun that audience welcomed in his “Iron Man” trilogy
to the much smaller-scale “Chef,” which places the actor/writer/director
in the role of an embittered chef struggling to figure out how to
progress with his cooking career. But where the film lacks in “Iron
Man”-style action sequences, it more than makes up for it in sentimental
charm that always encompasses a bit of vulgarity to prevent it from
ever going into the territory of schmaltz, which is an all-too rare
talent these days and is certainly enough to merit Favreau a place on
this list.

Watch the trailer below:

8. Fed Up (May 9)

Director: Stephanie Soechtig
Distributor: RADiUS-TWC

Criticwire Average: 4 critics gave it a B+ average


is it a “Must See”?  “Fed Up” is a mixture of in-the-life coverage and a roster of talking heads that include former President Bill Clinton. Director Stephanie Soechtig spent two years with a group of kids, documenting their efforts to improve their health through dieting and exercise. The tragedy, her film argues, is that the pervasiveness of the food industry and the misinformation it disseminates has stacked all the odds against them. Personal responsibility and freedom of choice has always been Big Food’s counter to accusations of public endangerment, but if the American people has been so intricately misled, where is the personal freedom to make the right decision for one’s health? If “Fed Up” is persuasive and passionate enough in making its argument, it could lead to a huge difference in how we view healthy consumption.

Watch the trailer below:

9. Palo Alto (May 9)

Director: Gia Coppola
Cast: Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Val Kilmer, James Franco
Distributor: Tribeca Film

Criticwire Average: 9 critics gave it a B+ average

Is It a “Must See?” At a certain age in the Coppola family, you’re
given a typewriter and a camera and expected to make a film. This time
around, it’s Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis, niece of Sofia and
Roman, and daughter of the late Gian-Carlo, adapting select short
stories from James Franco’s book “Palo Alto,” about troubled teenagers
dealing with alcoholism, sexuality and aimlessness. The young director’s
touch recalls her aunt’s excellent “The Virgin Suicides,” but she has a
woozy aesthetic all her own, and she coaxes very good performances out
of a young cast that includes Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer (son of Val,
whose father makes a cameo), and Nat Wolff.

Watch the trailer below:

10. God’s Pocket (May 9)

Director: John Slattery
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Christina Hendricks
Distributor: IFC Films

Criticwire Average: 14 critics gave it a B- average

Why Is It a “Must See?” “Mad Men” star John Slattery makes his directorial debut with a thriller set in the shady eponymous small town. The film received mixed reviews at Sundance, but the cast alone makes it worthwhile: Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, John Turturro, Eddie Marsan, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles. Hoffman stars as a man whose crazy stepson is killed in a construction “accident”, and whose attempts to bury the truth complicate matters with his wife (Hendricks). With so few films left in Hoffman’s filmography, every one is worth savoring.

Watch the trailer below:

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Good list.

Though I'm seeing THE IMMIGRANT again, following a half-hearted viewing at last year's NYFF, I'm not excited by the prospect. Just left me an uneven and silly feeling via the jolting family dynamic, and overbearing pathos without the old-school sheen. PALO ALTO was insufferable; same myopic world as Sofia's and with a slight advatnage in mining character depth without the narrative cohesion. CHEF was just a hokey algorithm of underdog journey, stunt casting, and food porn; it must've won the Tribeca audience award for all the stars.

I'm not hating on the respective casts and their performances. Or the passion of the filmmakers. Maybe it's the American premises that bored me…

Yet THE DOUBLE was a passionate, unnerving joy to watch. IDA is a bitter gem; no surprise noting the director. And COLD IN JULY, NIGHT MOVES and GOD'S POCKET already have my first weekend money.


James Gray's THE IMMIGRANT is one of the greatest American films ever made.


10 defently looking forward to see this may are
1-Devil's Knot
2-Bad Johnson
3-Palo Alto
4-The Angriest Man In Brooklyn
5-Wolf Creek 2
6-Night Moves
7-The Love Punch
8-Walk Of Shame
9-Decoding Annie Parker
10-Words & Pictures

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