Sundance 2022 Capsule Reviews: 'When You Finish Saving the World,' 'Nothing Compares,' 'A Love Song,' and 'Fresh'

Four reviews from Sundance 2022. Go here to see all my Sundance 2022 coverage. 

A teenage boy and his mother arrive home at the same time
[L-R] Finn Wolfhard as ZIGGY, Julianne Moore as EVELYN in WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD

Jesse Eisenberg's When You Finish Saving the World

Jesse Eisenberg is known for his depictions of awkward characters so it's no wonder he chose to make a story featuring two people who fail to connect with others due to their inability to read the room. Evelyn (Julianne Moore) and her teenage son Ziggy (Finn Wolfhard) seem like total opposites. He is a social media influencer with over 20,000 subscribers on a mission to gain fans and money; she runs a homeless shelter and desperately wants to make a difference in the world by doing good. Their lives have taken divergent paths but perhaps they could learn from each other – if only they could learn to speak each other's language.

Ziggy desperately wants to gain the attention of Lila, a female classmate with a passion for social issues (just like his mom). Meanwhile Evelyn takes a special interest in Kyle, a teen with a sensitive heart she feels she can point in the right direction. While the implications of these plot points on the mother-son bond seem obvious to everyone but our characters of interest, Eisenberg backs it up with dialogue and cringeworthy moments that ring true. Anyone who has felt misunderstood by their family will find something to appreciate in this ultimately hopeful tale. Last year's Sundance started with the hopeful CODA, and When You Finish Saving the World was the perfect soft opener for my festival experience.

Final score: 3.5 out of 5

A black and white photo of Sinead O'Connor
A still from of Sinead O'Connor from NOTHING COMPARES

Kathryn Ferguson's Nothing Compares

This documentary digs deep into the life and legacy of Sinead O'Connor (now known as Shuhada Sadaqat), focusing on her childhood and musical career up until the 1990s. The release of O'Connor's version of "Nothing Compares 2 U" came out like a juggernaut during my teenage years, so I was curious to know more about this musical icon. In truth, I didn't even realize she was still alive. Using a combination of archival footage, curated interviews, recorded audio of O'Connor's voice, and recreated scenes, the documentary points out the many ways O'Connor has been abused, misconstrued, rejected, and mocked by her family, country, and fans.

I enjoyed the deep-dive into O'Connor's life. The best documentaries open doors to unknown worlds. Sinead O'Connor is a mystery so uncovering the clues of her life was just what I wanted. But the film seemed to change scope in the middle from an intimate portrait of an enigma's life to broad sweeping generalizations about the greater world. I appreciate a documentary that speaks for itself and allows audiences to make their own conclusions. Ferguson makes her case a little too bluntly, which brought down the overall experience for me. Still, if you are fan of 90s culture, O'Connor's work, or musical legacies in general, Nothing Compares offers plenty to enjoy.

Final score: 3 out of 5

A man and woman with the foreheads pressed together. She holds his face.
[L-R] Wes Studi as LITO, Dale Dickey as Faye in A LOVE SONG

Max Walker-Silverman's A Love Song

This bittersweet and poignant story works as counterpoint to memorable films like Into the Wild and Nomadland. Faye (Dale Dickey) lives by herself in her hitched camper at an idyllic campground with a breathtaking view. She eats crawfish she catches in her nets, drinks reliable mugs of Café Bustelo, and listens to her portable radio, which always seems to find the perfect song for the moment. It's a solitary life of routine and calm. But Faye is expecting someone – an old childhood friend named Lito (Wes Studi) she hasn't seen in years. At each knock of the door, Faye bustles in anticipation, checking her hair for good measure. But Lito doesn't come. Other stop by: the mailman, a lesbian couple from the campsite next door, and even a family of five siblings, waiting to dig up their father's body from underneath Faye's trailer. These moments of reverie offer levity and time for us to learn something of Faye's personality and backstory. Shot on site in lovely Colorado, the sweeping vistas show off the grandeur of the American West.

This gentle and leisurely paced story offers a portrait of two souls full of longing and regret who find respite in their connection. Many stories have come and gone about souls who escape into the wilderness seeking space to heal the wounds in their past. A Love Song asks what happens after the healing has happened. Faye has rested from her pain and is looking for her next act. Whether or not Lito chooses to be part of the bigger story, he's an essential rest stop in her caravan. Seeing these two veteran actors play leading roles was a nice change, and the ice cream scene is one of the sweetest things I have seen on camera in awhile.

Final score: 3.5 out of 5

A man and woman sit in a restaurant booth together
[L-R] Sebastian Stan as STEVE, Daisy Edgar-Jones as NOA in FRESH

Mimi Cave's Fresh

Mimi Cave's feature length directorial debut is a solid and gory cautionary tale about modern dating that I felt so hard starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan. Stan is the most endearing psychopath we've met on screen since Hannibal Lecter.

Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is having zero luck on the dating apps meeting Mr. Right so she takes a chance on Steve (Sebastian Stan), a handsome plastic surgeon who chats her up in the produce aisle. After what seems like a perfect date, Noa ignores her more practical friend's advice and accepts Steve's invitation to a weekend getaway. What could go wrong?

Edgar-Jones and Stan have sizzling chemistry in this grisly body horror that pokes fun of modern dating conventions, as well as social media culture. I'm hard pressed to know what films to compare this to, but it's fun and violent. If you are tired of "elevated horror" about grief and trauma, Fresh might be the breath of air you need.

True story: I was once picked up by a guy at a grocery store who asked for my number. I was sort of flattered and impressed by his attention at first; later I regretted giving him a chance, so Fresh definitely hit its target audience with this setup.

Final score: 4.5 out of 5