#SUNDANCE: “ON THE COUNT OF THREE”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Best friends Val (Jerrod Carmichael) and Kevin (Christopher Abbott) are having a tough go of it. Val is feeling out of control in his life being stuck at a job he hates and the fear of becoming a father. Kevin tried to kill himself three days ago and now sits in a psychiatric hospital attempting to convince the doctors he’s fine. When Val visits Kevin he decides to break him out. This leads to the two make a pact to end their lives by days end.
This darkly comedic debut feature from Director Jerrod Carmichael is about mental illness, a failed mental health system, the right to bear arms and a love letter to friendship. There are tonal shifts that happen within the script, written by Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, but they work. These shifts happen while examining the past traumas of Kevin and Val and pivoting to their binding friendship. There is a brutal honesty that happens between best friends that’s often humorous. Additionally, there’s the ability to trust and confide your darkest truths in a best friend that’s impossible with anyone else. Katcher and Welch incorporate the reality of this relationship within the script and Carmichael controls the shifts on screen.
Not only does Carmichael steers this complex, layered film he also gives a strong performance. Of the two, Val is more level-headed and analytical. His decision to end his life comes from a place of recent depression and loss of control. Carmichael shows this in calculated doses, slowly exposing one layer of his character at a time. On the other hand, Kevin has had horrific trauma happen to him since childhood. A doctor who was supposed to help him, assaulted him. Whenever he has tried to get help, it hasn’t worked. This has made him feel that suicide is the only option. Abbott does a tremendous job of embodying the anguish Kevin carries and the weight of his choice. Further, he has impressive control of switching between a state of calm and unleashed anger.
Throughout, we are left wondering if the two will actually follow through with their pact. Without giving anything away, the ending leaves room for the suicide debate to be discussed. The same goes for the right to bear arms. Throughout this day-in-the-life story, Kevin references the negatives and positives of guns, which they intend to use for their pact. At moments within the script, we see the argument for guns when in a controlled setting, as in the scene at the shooting range. But we also witness the heartbreaking reality of what happens when a gun is in the hands of someone in an uncontrolled setting, this is shown multiple times throughout.
Carmichael makes an assured feature debut that tackles many controversial topics. Overall, On The Count of Three is a poignant look at mental health and the beautiful bond of friendship. It has genuine chemistry between Carmichael and Abbott. And Tiffany Haddish makes an impact with only one scene.
On The Count of Three screens at Sundance:
Live Premiere: January 29 at 9 PM (EST)
On-Demand (available for 24 hours): January 31 at 10 AM (EST)
#SUNDANCE: 2020 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW
By Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Sundance is evolving for the 2021 festival and going predominantly virtual with limited drive-in screenings across the U.S. Although the festival is only running for seven days, its screening 71 Features, 50 Shorts, 4 Indie Series, and 14 New Frontier Projects. The Festival continues to include more diverse filmmaking voices. Of this year’s 139 films: 50% are directed by one or more women; 4% are directed by one or more non-binary individuals; 50% are directed by one or more artists of color, and 15% by one or more people who identify as LGBTQ+.
There is a lot of buzz surrounding many films screening at this year’s fest, and we are highly anticipating many of its feature film picks. Check out our Top Ten, in no particular order, programmes listed in parantheses.
Director & Screenwriter: Dash Shaw
>It’s rare Sundance includes an Animated Feature in their selection so we are expecting great things. It follows cryptokeepers who question if they should display or keep hidden the majestical beasts they find. The characters are voiced by Lake Bell, Michael Cera and Zoe Kazan just to name a few.
JOCKEY [U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION]
Director & Screenwriter: Clint Bentley
An ageing jockey in ill health attempts to win one more championship, but things turn upside down when a young jockey claims to be his son. This is Bentley’s first-feature as a director and his cast includes Clifton Collins Jr., Molly Parker and Moises Arias.
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH [PREMIERES]
Director & Co-Screenwriter: Shaka King
We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It follows William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) who was offered a plea deal to infiltrate the Black Panther Party with the intent to gain intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). It has a powerhouse supporting cast consisting of Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Ashton Sanders and more.
This arrives February 12, 2021.
Director: Robin Wright (Variety’s 2021 Directors to Watch)
Wright makes her feature-film directorial debut and stars in this poignant story of a woman searching for meaning in the American wilderness, following an unfathomable event.
This will be released February 12, 2021.
ON THE COUNT OF THREE [U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION]
Director: Jerrod Carmichael
Sundance’s synopsis of Carmichael’s (The Carmichael Show) directorial feature debut is: “Two guns. Two best friends. And a pact to end their lives when the day is done.” It’s also got one killer cast: Carmichael, Christopher Abbott, Tiffany Haddish, J.B Smoove, Lavell Crawford and Henry Winkler.
PASSING [U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION]
Director & Screenwriter: Rebecca Hall
Based on the novella by Nella Larsen, this film follows two African American women who can “pass” as white and choose to live on opposite sides of the colour line in 1929 New York. It has a stellar cast consisting of Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Alexander Skarsgård and Bill Camp.
PRISONERS OF A GHOSTLAND [PREMIERES]
Director: Sion Sono
Nicolas Cage and popular Japanese filmmaker Sono team up in this film that Cage has stated is his wildest yet. It follows a notorious criminal who is sent to rescue a woman who has disappeared into a dark supernatural universe.
SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) [U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION]
Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
This Film documents the Harlem Cultural Festival, which took place the same summer as Woodstock. The festival celebrated African-American music and culture and promoted Black pride and culture.
Co-Directors & Co-Screenwriters: Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli
Coming off the buzz from its TIFF premiere, this Canadian film is now travelling stateside. It follows Miriam (Sims-Fewer) whose quest for revenge is sparked when her sister and brother-in-law betray her.
A Canadian release has been confirmed for March 26, 2021 for this.
WILD INDIAN [U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION]
Director & Screenwriter: Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. (Variety’s 2021 Directors to Watch)
Years after covering up a savage murder of a schoolmate, two men confront how their secret has shaped their lives. It stars Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer, Jesse Eisenberg, Kate Bosworth, and more.
Although these films are geoblocked to the U.S, there are many free events happening virtually around the globe. Some of the events happening are: The Sundance Dailies, The Cinema Cafe, The Big Question, Awards Night and more.
Friday, January 29–Tuesday, February 2, 9:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
These take place every morning with Tabitha Jackson and others. Guests include: Eugenio Derbez (CODA), Rebecca Hall (Passing), Ed Helms (Together Together), Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein (How It Ends), and more.
Friday, January 29–Monday, February 1, 10:30 a.m.–11:15 a.m
These cultural conversations with fascinating subjects could go just anywhere. This year we have:
Shaka King & Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Friday, January 29, 10:30 a.m.–11:15 a.m.
Sonia Manzano & Rita Moreno
Saturday, January 30, 10:30 a.m.–11:15 a.m.
Rebecca Hall & Robin Wright
Sunday, January 31, 10:30 a.m.–11:15 a.m.
Tyson Brown, Patti Harrison & Emilia Jones
Monday, February 1, 10:30 a.m.–11:15am
Friday, January 29–Monday, February 1, 1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m., individual slots TBA
THE BIG CONVERSATION
These conversations tackle science, art, culture, and the movements that are fueling the imaginations of today’s independent artists. Topics include LGBTQ+ film, women at Sundance, race and more.
This takes place Tuesday, February 2, 6:00 p.m. and is free for all to view on the Sundance online screening platform.
For information about films, events and more head to: https://festival.sundance.org/.
Stay tuned for our continued coverage as we bring you reviews daily of the most-buzzed films throughout the Festival.
The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28 to February 3, 2021.
(Photo credit: Warner Bros.)