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The 10 Indie Films You Must See This May

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 1, 2013 at 10:25AM

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.

Sony Pictures Classics "Before Midnight"
May is about to offer quite the selection to movie-goers, with over 30 films listed on Indiewire's May calendar.

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 Sarah Polley to Greta Gerwig to Henry James (sort of), 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 (including some studio efforts).

1. Before Midnight (May 24)

Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Criticwire Average: 38 critics gave it an A average.

Why is it a "Must See"? This might just be the must see of the summer, as far as we and probably a lot of other folks are concerned. The second sequel to Richard Linklater's beloved 1995 "Before Sunrise" (and first to his perhaps even more beloved 2004 film "Before Sunset"), "Before Midnight" reunites us with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) almost two decades after they met on a train bound for Vienna. Now in their early 40s, "Midnight" finds the couple reuniting in Greece and likely facing a time constraint related to 12am, though try not to let yourself know much more than that going in.  The less known the better as we enter the third chapter of one of the great love stories of American indie cinema (which is coming off of extremely well received screenings in Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca and SXSW). [Peter Knegt]

We'd prefer not to post the film's trailer (it gives away more than we'd want you to see), so check out this interview Indiewire did with the "Midnight" team at Sundance:

2. Stories We Tell (May 10)

Director: Sarah Polley
Distributor: Roadside Attractions

Criticwire Average: 31 critics gave it a A average

Why is it a "Must See"? One of the most acclaimed films from this past fall's festival circuit, Sarah Polley's deeply personal documentary about her own family is coming to theaters this May care of Roadside Attractions. Polley uses home movies, new interviews and voice-over narration to explore secrets in her own family in the incredibly moving doc, which will give you yet another reason to love the Canadian child actress turned woman who can clearly do anything. [Peter Knegt]

Check out the film's trailer:

3. Frances Ha (May 17)

Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver
Distributor: IFC Films

Criticwire Average: 38 critics gave it an A- average.

Why is it a "Must See"? Greta Gerwig gives her most appealing performance yet in Noah Baumbach’s seemingly effortless black-and-white comedy that, yes, does share a lot of similarities to Lena Dunham’s hit HBO show “Girls.” Centered on the bumbling life of Frances (Gerwig), a struggling post-modern dancer living and loving in the Big Apple, “Frances Ha” doesn’t tell a story, so much as force you to get to know the protagonist. As written by both Baumbach and Gerwig, Frances is a hot mess, but an endearing, awkward and hilarious one. [Nigel M. Smith]

Check out the film's trailer:

4. Sightseers (May 10)

Director: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram
Distributor: IFC Films

Criticwire Average: 37 critics gave it a B+ average.

Why is it a "Must See"? Anyone who was irreparably disturbed by British weirdo auteur Ben Wheatley's last effort, the intensely haunting "Kill List," can breath a sigh of relief. Wheatley has gone for something decidedly more comedic this time around, and in doing so seems to have hit the sweet spot between horror and comedy, based on the serious amount of praise it earned at the Director's Fortnight at Cannes. The film stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram as a pair of bumbling lovers who take a roadtrip through the Yorkshire countryside that inadvertently turns into a killing spree, so it's a perfect fit for Wheatley's twisted sense of humor. It also bears the mark of executive producer (and "Shaun of the Dead" director) Edgar Wright, who has a penchant for picking out fresh and original voices in British genre comedy, as seen with Joe Cornish's brilliant "Attack the Block." [Mark E Lukenbill]

Check out the film's trailer:

5. The East (May 31)

Director: Zal Batmanglij
Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Patricia Clarkson, Shiloh Fernandez
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Criticwire Average: 10 critics gave it a B+ average

Why is it a "Must See"? Two years after "Another Earth" and "Sound of My Voice" catapulted her to indie-icon status at Sundance, Brit Marling is back with her latest writing-acting effort, "The East." Directed and co-written by her "Sound of My Voice" collaborator Zal Batmanglij, the Fox Searchlight thriller centers on an ex-FBI agent (Marling) who infiltrates an anarchist collective known as The East suspected of attacking corporate CEOs. Once embedded within the group, however, she soon finds herself on their side. [Nigel M. Smith]

Check out the film's trailer:

6. Something In The Air (May 3)

Director: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Clement Metayer, Lola Creton, Felix Armand, Carole Combes, India Menuez
Distributor: IFC Films

Criticwire Average: 33 critics gave it a B+ average.

Why is it a "Must See"? On the heels of the international acclaim of his five-hour 2010 epic "Carlos," Olivier Assayas appears to be returning to the extremely personal dramas that first gained him a following with "Something in the Air," an autobiographical account of a young filmmaker's experience in the world of radical activism in 1971 France. A standout on the 2012 festival circuit after its Venice premiere, where Assayas received an award for best screenplay, the film has consistently received raves for its sense of revolutionary atmosphere and gorgeous style, with many likening it to the director's earlier "Summer Hours." The film's young cast, starring Clement Metayer and Lola Creton have also received their raves for their portrayals of teens pulled into the radical political climate, purportedly heavily influenced by Assayas' own activism-filled youth. [Cameron Sinz]

Check out the film's trailer:

7. Fill The Void (May 24)

Director: Rama Burshtein
Cast: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Chaim Sharir, Razia Israely, Hila Feldman, Renana Raz, Yael Tal, Michael David Weigl, Ido Samuel, Neta Moran, Melech Thal
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Criticwire Average: 19 critics gave it a B+ average

Why is it a "Must See"? Israel's submission to last year's Academy Awards, Rama Burshtein's "Fill The Void" hits American theaters nine months after it won the best actress award at last year's Venice Film Festival (for star Hadas Yaron). The film follows a well to-do family in Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv, Israel that suffers a tragedy when his daughter Esther dies in childbirth. As a result the family's younger daughter is pressured by her mother to marry her deceased sister's husband (hence the title). In a review back in September, Indiewire said the film's storytelling is "deliberate, nuanced and memorable, but don’t expect anything reassuring." That might not sound like an optimal summer night at the movies, but trust us "Fill The Void" is worth your while. [Peter Knegt].  

Check out the film's trailer:

8. The Kings of Summer (May 31)

Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Cast: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Alison Brie
Distributor: CBS Films

Criticwire Average: 10 critics gave it a A- average

Why is it a "Must See"? Summer is synonymous with coming-of-age story and that is just what new writer-director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has to offer. “The Kings of Summer” follows a Walden-like adventure of three teenage friends (Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias) who decided to spend their summer building a house in the woods and live off the land, without. After framing their kidnapping, the boys escape to nature to find true independence and channel their inner Thoreau. Also starring Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, and Alison Brie as the boys’ parents, the film looks to be the refreshing, comedic summer indie that inspires us to hitch up a tent and embrace the wild--maybe even this year’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” If you’re still not convinced just check out the film’s simplistic first trailer from March where the boys make a drum out of a hollow pipe in the forest. [Erin Whitney]

Check out the film's trailer:

9. What Maisie Knew (May 3)

Director:  Scott McGehee, David Siegel
Cast:  Alexander Skarsgård, Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan
Distributor: Millennium Films

Criticwire Average: 14 critics gave it a B+ average.

Why is it a "Must See"? While the works of Henry James wouldn't necessarily seem to lend themselves well to being contemporized, it's still surprising that his "What Maisie Knew" has never had a major film adaptation before, as it remains a pretty unflinching look at post-divorce child upbringing through the eyes of the title character. But now "Bee Season" and "Uncertainty" co-directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel are bringing James' novel into the 21st century, with touted newcomer Onata Aprile as the titular six year old, observing the bitter custody battle between her aging rocker mom (Julianne Moore) and art dealer dad (Steve Coogan). The film played at Toronto last year, where the acting of everyone involved was praised, which isn't surprising given the on-screen talent. [Mark E. Lukenbill]

Check out the film's trailer:

10. Post Tenebras Lux (May 1)

Director: Carlos Reygadas
Cast: Adolfo Jimenez Castro, Nathalia Acevedo, Willebaldo Torres
Distributor: Strand Releasing

Criticwire Average: 32 critics gave it a B average.

Why is it a "Must See"? Carlos Reygadas' "Post Tenebras Lux," was one of the more controversial Cannes winners in recent memory when Reygadas took home a Best Director trophy at last year's festival, following a reception that earned its fair share of praise and an equal (if not larger) amount of derision from those attending its premiere. Using his own life as a structuring method, the film follows a rural couple living in Mexico who own a wealthy estate with their children and various workers. What seems at first to be the director's most linear film yet quickly descends into a series of inexplicable events, mixing the real with the supernatural within his heavily textured visual style.

IW's Eric Kohn called the film "at turns wildly beautiful and pointlessly nonsensical," in his Cannes review, and wherever you end up siding on the film, it's sure to be one of the more fascinating films you'll see all summer. [Cameron Sinz]

Check out the film's trailer:

This article is related to: Before Midnight, Frances Ha, Stories We Tell, Sightseers, Something In The Air


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