Dare follows three very-different teenagers through the last semester of high school. There are Alexa (Emmy Rossum), the overachieving good girl who longs to break out of her shell; Ben (Ashley Springer), the melancholy outsider confused about his sexuality; and Johnny (Zach Gilford), the rich kid who has everything, including good looks, but hides behind his bad-boy persona. This unlikely trio fall into each other’s lives and each other’s arms, making a last-ditch effort to shake things up before they actually have to start living as adults. Director Adam Salky and writer David Brind takes us into some uncharted territory with fresh eyes and matter-of-fact authority. Sweet and sexy don’t always go together, but they work beautifully in this instance because the sexuality of the film is cleverly woven into the fabric of the story. You can ask why the kids are in such a hurry to experience adult feelings, especially when their parents, comically enough, are afraid to get in the way. All is answered in the nuanced performances of this exceptional cast. They capture perfectly a generation with nothing to rebel against except their self-imposed inhibitions. By being keenly perceptive, director Salky stacks up countless priceless moments in crafting teen romance with a decidedly modern spin. In Dare, the kids do what they need to do to become the adults they should. [Synopsis courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival.]

I Smile Back

Laney is an attractive, intelligent suburban wife and devoted mother of two adorable children. She has the perfect husband who plays basketball with the kids in the driveway, a pristine house, and a shiny SUV for carting the children to their next activity. However, just beneath the façade lie depression and disillusionment that send her careening into a secret world of reckless compulsion. Only very real danger will force her to face the painful root of her destructiveness and its crumbling effect on those she loves. [Synopsis courtesy of Sundance Film Festival]