February 2, 2021

SHOWBUZZDAILY Virtual Sundance Reviews: “The World To Come” & “Jockey”


THE WORLD TO COME (Bleecker Street – March 2):  Although the story is set in 1856, this is 2021, so it’s not hard to see where Mona Fastvold’s The World To Come is heading.  Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard’s script begins in the dead of winter, in the wilderness that was upstate New York in that era, where Abigail (Katherine Waterston)–who narrates, at great length–lives miserably with her husband Dyer (Casey Affleck, who also produced), haunted by the death of their young child.  Abigail’s outlook changes with the arrival of new neighbors Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) and Finney (Christopher Abbott).  Abigail is delighted by the vivacious Tallie, and as both their husbands are dull and unappreciative or worse, their bond deepens, until with the arrival of spring, the relationship blossoms.  Since this is 1856, things are unlikely to work out well, and only the details are less than inevitable.  Waterston and Kirby are two of the finest actresses around, and they admirably fulfill the demands of their roles.  Kirby, as the catalyst, gets to be relatively glamorous and magnetic, while Waterston brings a passionate intensity to the more timid and insular Abigail.  The men also do everything needed, but to less emotional effect.  Fastvold, who shot the film over several seasons (on 16mm film, with Andre Chemetoff behind the camera) achieves a completely convincing visual world, and the soundscape of the project, with music by Daniel Blumberg, is similarly impressive, especially during a brutal snowstorm sequence. Ultimately, The World To Come is limited by the lack of invention in its storyline, and although many of its elements are notable, it doesn’t ignite.

JOCKEY (Sony Classics):  There’s hardly a bettor to be seen in Jockey, or even a racehorse owner.  The glitz of horseracing isn’t of interest to director Clint Bentley (who co-wrote with Greg Kwedar), making his feature debut.  The film is an elegiac character study anchored by an immense performance by Clifton Collins, Jr, who won a Best Actor award at the festival.  He plays Jackson, a veteran jockey hit by a barrage of changes as the story begins.  On the one hand, he finds out from the trainer for whom he rides, his longtime friend Ruth (Molly Parker), that he’s going to have the chance to ride a potential wonder horse, the kind jockeys dream about.  But he also gets confirmation that his body is failing him, and he’s blindsided when the young jockey Gabriel (Moises Arias) reveals himself as a son Jackson never knew h had.  There isn’t much more plot than those storylines playing out, and the film mostly focuses on its three protagonists, establishing a mood very far from what goes on at the betting windows.  Collins and Parker are both performers that invariably deliver first-rate work but only occasionally have the chance to stretch into a lead role, and they’re superb.  Arias, who had his work cut out for him keeping up with his co-stars, is up to the challenge.  There’s lovely photography by Adolpho Veloso (much of the film is shot at “magic hour”), and haunting music by Aaron and Bryce Dessner.  Jockey, which will remind some of Chloe Zhao’s The Rider (set in the rodeo world), avoids the cliches of its genre, and is memorably rewarding in its low-key way.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."