Sundance Film Festival 2021: The World to Come

Contrasting in the extreme to the Nicolas Cage film earlier today, Mona Fastvold’s The World to Come is a subdued tale of secretive and forbidden queer desire on the 19th century frontier. When Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and her husband (Christopher Abbott) move to the area, Abigail (Katherine Waterston) is quickly drawn to the enigmatic red-haired woman who slowly breathes new life into her day-to-day doldrums with her husband Dyer (Casey Affleck). The film moves slowly over the course of a few months as the two women draw closer together and their chemistry blossoms.

In terms of visuals, The World to Come delivers incredibly lush and beautiful images of the country landscapes throughout several seasons. Fastvold delves deeply into Abigail’s narrative here, as her diary is the primary informative device. Waterston’s incredibly contained voice-over narration for her many diary entries guides us along as she develops feelings for Tallie. Kirby and Waterston’s chemistry is undeniable as the spaces between them slowly shrink as the pair become more comfortable with each other. Fastvold utilizes natural lighting for the internal sequences in the log homes of the women, and for the most part it is very effective. But there are a few moments when the darkness was a bit too overwhelming and swallows the characters into the dark spaces.

In the Q&A for the film, Fastvold discusses how the cinematographer André Chemetoff shot the film on 16mm to capture more grain and a more filmic image. Additionally, she talks about how the title is meant to suggest how same sex love is part of the world to come, and how it was a sign of hope for the future to see these women in this time stuck with the societal norms and judgment of the period while also commenting on how this is still such a harsh reality for queer folks today.

Overall, this was a very effective and powerful film that deals with the queer issues of the 19th century but also is shockingly relevant to the constant battle for equality that is continually fought every day. This was a nice film to wrap up the Sundance Film Festival screenings for the week, and I’m glad that I got a chance to see a new film produced by Christine Vachon’s Killer Films early, as her production company has been one of my favorites since I was in college. The virtual Sundance Film Festival experience has been incredibly well-handled with the app on the Firestick being very easy to use. So, keep up the great work folks that organized everything during this hectic pandemic time. Thanks again to my friend Lee for making this possible! What a great week for film, indeed!

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