By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist May 7, 2013 at 11:58AM
So perhaps the blockbusting sturm und drang of “Iron Man 3” has you slavering for more KA-BLAMMO, in which case our Most Anticipated Summer Blockbusters is the article for you. If, however, you're already getting a slight tension headache at the prospect of weeks upon interminable weeks of tentpole releases and the din of clashing opinions that attends the redistribution of billions of dollars of wealth, never fear. The gods of counterprogramming have been especially kind this year, and there's a wide selection of upcoming, smaller-budgeted, lesser-distributed gems in which the only things that collide are intersecting lives, the only ticking time bombs are repressed emotions, the only things that break are hearts, and the only things that blow up are grandiose expectations, right in some sad sack's face. You are also much more likely to get some full-on nudity.
These are the 15 indie films we're on high alert for this summer -- many of them we've already seen at festivals or in far-flung exotic locales with far-flung exotic release schedules. Some, however, will be new to us too: all are worth checking out. Whether your tastes tend to the populist or the more obscure, or whether, like us, you are ambidextrous in your cinematic tendencies, there's a lot to keep filmgoers happily inside all summer long. Remember "inside a theater" is the highest SPF there is.
Synopsis: British couple Chris (Steve Oram) and Tina (Alice Lowe) go on a camping tour around Britain that takes a turn for the dark -- as in pitch black and gruesome -- after an accidental death leads them to discover a new hobby, in addition to Tina's knitting.
What You Need To Know: Just knowing that it was the next film from Ben Wheatley, the twisted and brilliant mind behind "Down Terrace" and "Kill List," scripted by the leads Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, was enough to get us excited. And then we saw it at Cannes. Our A grade review hat-tipped the strong characterisation from the actor/writers, with everything from the editing to the camerawork to the soundtrack also getting props. Most of all though, in the notoriously hard-to-nail black comedy genre, it seems the marriage of Wheatley -- essentially a one-man British film movement whose off-kilter creds were well established -- with a genuinely funny and original script that never sacrifices character for action or humor but has plenty of all three, is truly a match made in heaven. As long as your idea of heaven is dark, shocking and disturbingly funny.
When: May 10th
Synopsis: Frances (Greta Gerwig) is a twentysomething wannabe dancer living beyond her means in New York City whose life is falling just a little short of her aspirations. When her best friend (Mickey Sumner) moves out of their shared apartment, Frances, with characteristically endearing clumsiness, has to try and forge her own path.
What You Need To Know: With Noah Baumbach's stock in trade perhaps being those excoriatingly incisive films about relationship dynamics and the unwitting cruelty that friends and family members can visit on each other -- "The Squid and the Whale" "Margot at the Wedding" and "Greenberg" for example -- it was a very pleasant surprise to see him in much looser, sunnier form with "Frances Ha," without having lost any of his insightfulness. Benefiting tremendously from a career-best Greta Gerwig in the lead role and writing collaborator (with Baumbach), the film takes a perhaps somewhat familiar premise (the trials on the road to self-discovery of an attractive young New Yorker), but injects it with such freshness and lightness of touch that it never seems old hat. Boasting a wonderful soundtrack and shot more or less on the fly and in secrecy, our Telluride review called it "one of Baumbach’s most accessible and joyous works."
When: May 17th
"Stories We Tell"
Synopsis: Actress and director Sarah Polley turns the camera on her own family in a documentary that ends up part mystery story, part redemption tale, and part exploration of the power of storytelling in general, and documentary filmmaking specifically.
What You Need To Know: Have been more or less in love with Sarah Polley's last two directorial outings "Away From Her" and "Take this Waltz." We were initially slightly disappointed to hear that her next would be a documentary, rather than another of the fine-hewn human dramas she has been making her forte. But then we saw "Stories We Tell" at Venice (the A- review is here), and realised just what an unusual and revelatory tale is told here, made all the more touching because it is true, and made all the more insightful because of Polley's innate storytelling capabilities. In fact this is the film, along with our recent interview with Polley, that has us most convinced just how much she deserves to be considered among the brightest and best of the new generation of independent filmmakers.
When: May 17th