Sundance 2023: Polite Society, My Animal | Festivals & Awards

Priya Kansara is the center of this movie as Ria, a schoolgirl who dreams of being a stunt woman. “Polite Society” is a great example of how a character’s POV can shape a movie, and in this case, she sees the world as something of an action film. When she fights a bully in school, it becomes a giddy mix of wire-fu and slow-motion and stuff that usually only makes sense in action movies. But here it’s inspired and spiky, without being too enamored with its concept. 

Ria deeply loves her older artist sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), who helps film Ria’s stunt videos. But she’s mortified when Lena falls for a slimy bachelor whose mother Raheela (Nimra Bucha) has a wicked smile and an even more dominating social prowess. She thinks something wicked is going on, and with her two friends they investigate his skeeziness. He’s just too good to be true, and her sister Lena seems brainwashed. It’s much worse than she thinks, and her desire to kick ass becomes a type of comical self-fulfilling prophecy. 

“Polite Society” is the kind of action-comedy that gets nuttier and nuttier, especially as Ria’s inclinations become a hilarious self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m not entirely sure “Polite Society” nails its reality-breaking evolution as it becomes a full-on action movie, but it does make for a wild third act where Manzoor shows plenty of chops with fast fights and punchy jokes. One final note: the film is set for release in April of this year, and I would advise skipping the trailer if you can help it. 

Jacqueline Castel’s feature debut “My Animal,” which also premiered in the Midnight section, looks at one high schooler’s secret life as a werewolf, and places it inside a coming-of-age story about her deeper cravings. For one, Heather (Bobbi Savlör Menuez) wants to be a goalie, and she has been practicing for it for a long time with her father and twin brothers. But she also has an eye for a figure skater named Jonny (Amandla Stenberg), who is caught up with the rougher dudes in their cold Canadian town, but wants to be close with Heather. Their connection makes for emotional, romantic, and sometimes trippy scenes that show off Castel’s promise for creating mood and generating style in a horror context. These components, along with the performances from Menuez and Stenberg, are sound enough, even when the movie struggles to become more than just another high school werewolf tale. 

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