Dances With Films returns for its 16th year newly expanded to 11 days, with a lineup of more than 40 promising independent features. Since most people don’t have 60 or so hours to spare, we’ve watched a bunch of them and selected the top five you should check out.
5. Alanna Ubach plays a role — or rather, roles — like never before in Us, as a woman with dissociative identity disorder who tentatively begins a romance. Grittier than Silver Linings Playbook, this film exposes the ugly side of mental illness and will make you grateful for normalcy.
4. If the recent passing of Zach Sobiech (the teen singer-songwriter of the viral hit “Clouds”) struck a chord, so will Reach. Ryan, a terminal cancer patient, records video diaries for his blog as he spends his final days with his loving girlfriend. A pretty soundtrack underlines this quiet, simple film, which shows the sweet side of death.
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3. Jono Oliver’s Home explores the difficult road back to stability as group-home resident Jack works to overcome his past of violent outbreaks in order to repair his relationship with his son and return to society. Gbenga Akinnagbe (who played Chris Partlow in The Wire) captures Jack’s struggle to maintain hope in the face of setbacks with the honest timidity of a man who’s seen more wrongs than rights.
2. An original boy-meets-girl story is hard to come by, but How to Follow Strangers turns a nonverbal chance meeting across the subway platform and subsequent, awkward stalking into this grave and whimsical Before Sunrise–esque romance. Inspired by the woman who died in a Chanel suit and went undiscovered for a year, Strangers poses the question, “Who will notice when I’m gone?”
1. Channeling envisions a world in which contact lenses can be cameras that broadcast what people are seeing, applying the concept to a story about a soldier who comes home to avenge his brother’s death. It’s a thrilling ride that also comments on consumers of online content.
DANCES WITH FILMS | TCL Chinese Theatre | May 30-June 9 | danceswithfilms.com