Sundance 2023: Landscape with Invisible Hand, Drift | Festivals & Awards

With momentum only coming from the movie’s commitment to its strangeness, “Landscape with Invisible Hand” toys with home-life elements, including how one of the Vuvv would try to integrate into a human role as a parent to humans. Tiffany Haddish (as Adam’s mom) and Josh Hamilton (as Chloe’s dad)—in ways that shouldn’t be spoiled—have some fun with the bizarre premise. And Michael Gandolfini has a small part as someone who wants to work for the Vuvv; his arc becomes one of many stories undeveloped by Finley’s script. These performances save Finley from disaster as everyone gets in on the riffs. 

Among its pile of ideas that create far more tediousness than momentum, there’s also a flying city run by the Vuvv and hovers over regular on-the-ground human life. Meanwhile, composer Michael Abels (who previously scored “Nope,” a comparison point that appears and then vanishes) offers a classic theremin-heavy score to nudge how we should read this like a parody of an invasion story. And the aliens are never seen as threatening, adding to how light this is. But “Landscape with Invisible Hand” is hard to take seriously, even for how little this strange lark wants that at all. 

Anthony Chen’s “Drift,” the Singaporean filmmaker’s first English-language picture and Sundance debut, is a well-intentioned movie about slowing down, taking a breath, and letting others in. But it’s so hard up for an example of kindness and connection that it goes to extremes to make its point while hardly filling in characters in its place. One could call the movie self-indulgent, but it does not feel manipulative so much as misguided. 

Cynthia Erivo wanders through much of the movie, which takes place around the opulent cliffsides of Greece. Her character, Jacqueline, is penniless and skittish about talking to people; she has a special place on a beach where she buries her belongings. When she steals some olive oil from a restaurant, she’s able to give foot massages to tourists on the beach. And when she eats the food of her labor, a voice can be heard telling her to slow down. Waves crash throughout the film’s sound mix like a white noise machine, while Jacqueline has flashbacks to images from a previous life—she has much longer hair, she’s in love with a woman in London, and then is welcomed back home to Libera, where her wealthy family is celebrating her sister’s pregnancy. But something has happened to put her in her current state, and “Drift” holds onto the reveal like a cheap twist. 

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