Ryan’s SXSW ’21 Round Up [Part 1]

I’ve been living in Toronto for nearly four years now, and outside of a few odd screenings, have never had the opportunity to fully experience TIFF, or any other film festival for that matter. So to say that I was looking forward to not only attending SXSW 2021, but getting to write about the things I watched for The UnderSCENE, is a huge understatement. I find these festivals so exciting because they give you an exclusive access to the films that will be talked about all year long. And while I didn’t get to watch as much as I had hoped to, because lets face it, at-home viewings are not the same, I do have some things to say about some of the films I did watch.

Women Is Losers / Dir. Lissette Feliciano

To kick things off, I watched Women Is Losers starring Lorenza Izzo (Knock Knock) as Celina, a young woman living in 1960s San Francisco. The film follows Celina over the course of a few years as she struggles to overcome the oppression that women of the time faced at home and in the workplace, all while trying to build a life for her newborn son on her own. Women Is Losers is a fine watch that benefits greatly from Izzo’s strong performance, even if the commentary is so blatant at times that it loses any long-lasting impact it might have had. I will say though, that its final moments were full of hope, and entirely made up for the inconsistent journey we took to get there. Women Is Losers isn’t necessarily a movie I would watch again, but I came out of it with a smile on my face, and that’s all that I could have asked for from my first film of the festival. 

You can read Arianne’s review of the film here.

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers / Dir. Dante Basco

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers was easily the most disappointing movie of the festival for me, which is a shame because it was one of the ones I was most looking forward to. I’m a sucker for comedies centred on dysfunctional families, and Dante Basco’s real-life brothers playing his on-screen brothers brought a lot of authentic chemistry to the film. However, The Fabulous Filipino Brothers falters because it fails to realize that the best part about it is the brothers being on screen together. We only get about 10 minutes of the brothers interacting with each other, and spend the rest of the runtime watching them go about their own storylines. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the characters were likeable enough or their stories interesting enough to warrant such a thing, but they’re not. At the end of the day, this is a movie that Dante Basco made with and about his family, so I can’t be mad about that. I personally just think it could have given us a lot more. 

The End of Us / Dir. Henry Loevner, Steven Kanter

The End of Us is a BuzzFeed Studios production about Nick and Leah, a couple that decide to break-up the night before California enters lockdown due to COVID-19, and are forced to isolate together for the foreseeable future. It’s insane to me that a company that provides articles solely for people to read on the toilet is now funding and producing feature films, but I guess I’m not that surprised that that’s where we’ve ended up as a society. Anyways, this might be subjective, but I enjoyed this movie – so much so that I watched it a second time with my roommate, who did not enjoy it. Honestly, I can’t blame him. The End of Us definitely isn’t the funniest romantic comedy out there, and suffers from some MAJOR pacing issues, but it does have the odd cute or funny moment. All in all, I think two watches is more than sufficient enough for my lifetime. 

Recovery / Dir. Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 2021, I sat in my bed and watched not one, but two movies set during COVID-19, so graciously reminding me of all the celebrating I couldn’t participate in. After The End of Us, I decided to watch Recovery, which follows two quirky sisters as they embark on a roadtrip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID outbreak in her nursing home. This is one of those movies that gets better the more you sit with it. There were jokes that fell flat for me at the time, but get funnier the more I think back on them. However, one thing I haven’t changed my mind about is the undeniable charm of Mallory Everton and Whitney Call. These two have great comedic chemistry as the two sisters, and this movie would not have landed if it weren’t for them at the forefront. Recovery is a movie you’ll either enjoy or won’t, but it’s worth the watch either way. 

The Feast / Dir. Lee Haven Jones

To be quite honest, I don’t have a ton of things to say about this one, mostly because I’m still trying to figure out what the hell it was even about. I don’t know much (or really anything at all) about Welsh culture or folklore, what I can appreciate about The Feast is its incredible direction and well-crafted atmosphere. The Feast follows the quiet and mysterious Cadi (Annes Elwy, Apostle), who arrives to serve at the dinner party of a wealthy and greedy family. As the night progresses, things start to take a gruesome and unnatural turn. The Feast does a great job of slowly building suspense and intrigue, and I can confidently say that I never found myself bored throughout. Definitely the most unique and unsettling film I watched during the festival.

The second part of my round-up for the festival will come shortly, so stay tuned for that!