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Summer's Best Indie Films, From Romance To Podcast Rockstar Horror

ES Staff  |  Indie Film Headlines

This summer will bring Marvel, Minions, Jurassic World, and Tom Cruise's Top Gun sequel. This gives smaller releases more space and attention. Here's a feel for this summer's independent-ish films, from family to horror and more.

Quarterlife crisis

Twentysomethings are struggling this summer. Fire Island (on Hulu June 3) is about two friends struggling to fit into an invisible community. Nana Mensah's Queen of Glory (in theaters July 15) is about a Columbia doctoral student whose mother's death sends her back to the Bronx and her Ghanaian neighborhood. Playlist (in theaters May 27) is about an aspiring graphic novelist who stops an unintended pregnancy and secures a job close enough to her ambition that she doesn't run screaming when her boss remarks, "I'm a real jerk." In Katie Aselton's Mack & Rita (in cinemas August 12), an out-of-step homebody (Elizabeth Lail) is so eager to skip directly to senior-citizen status that she pulls a reverse 13 Going on 30 with the help of a sound-bath pod, emerging as Diane Keaton.

Midlife relationships

Love and sex aren't just for the young and supple, and relationship movies aren't always happy. Claire Denis' Both Sides of the Blade pits Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon against each other in bruisingly realistic confrontations after a former lover and business partner (Grégoire Colin) resurfaces and threatens to shatter their seemingly ideal marriage. A Love Song (in theaters July 29) features Dale Dickey camping by a Colorado lake, but her real romance may be with herself. Emma Thompson plays a woman sorting out life following her husband's death in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Hulu, June 17). (Daryl McCormack). Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook find joy in Clio Barnard's Ali & Ava (in theaters July 29), despite their Bradford, England, communities' skepticism.


Disney has competition. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (out June 24) continues the stop-motion mollusk's travels. The mockumentary explores Marcel's internet fame before sending him to find his family. Maika, The Girl From Another Galaxy is a Vietnamese film based on a 1970s Czechoslovakian TV serial. A troubled 8-year-old befriends an alien child. Summering follows four girls on a Stand by Me-like quest before middle school.

British warmth

This summer's British dramedies range from bad golfers to historical dramas. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is based on Paul Gallico's book about a working-class widow (Lesley Manville) who wants a Dior dress. Mark Rylance plays Maurice Flitcroft, a shipyard crane operator who dressed as a golfer and recorded the worst score in British Open history, becoming a folk hero. Mr. Malcolm's List (in cinemas July 1) features Freida Pinto, Sope Dirisu, and Zawe Ashton.

Pandemics, including COVID and more

Summer movies depict real and imaginary pandemics. Dashcam (in theaters and on VOD June 3) from director Rob Savage, whose Zoom horror thriller Host was one of the few excellent lockdown movies of 2020, follows an unpleasant, reactionary livestreamer (Annie Hardy) who moves her show and conspiratorial attitude to the U.K. In Apples (in theaters June 24), an Athens outbreak gives Aris Servetalis amnesia. Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji's The Deer King (in theaters July 15) is about a retired soldier and the young girl in his care.

Rockstar performers

David Cronenberg and Peter Strickland's latest films celebrate performance artists. Viggo Mortensen lives in a sparsely populated industrial future in Crimes of the Future (3 June). He develops new internal parts that his girlfriend and lover (Léa Seydoux) removes in front of a live audience. In Flux Gourmet (in cinemas and on demand June 24), a journalist (Makis Papadimitriou) follows a culinary collective led by The Duke of Burgundy's Fatma Mohamed as they compose soundscapes using food and kitchen equipment.

The Podcasters

Armchair-detective podcasters like black-comedy thrillers. B. J. Novak is a New York radio broadcaster who visits West Texas for a funeral and finds true-crime podcast material. In Poser, Sylvie Mix uses a podcast to enter the underground music scene in Columbus, Ohio.


If the two categories above sound horror-adjacent, try these. Best Rest (in theaters July 15) is about a pregnant woman (Melissa Barrera) who experiences odd events during bed rest. Rebecca Hall plays an uncomfortable mother whose carefully managed existence collapses in Resurrection (in theaters and on VOD August 5). Roth, Tim. It Follows' Maika Monroe plays an American exile in Watcher (in theaters June 3). Phil Tippett's decades-in-the-making stop-motion masterwork Mad God (streaming on Shudder June 16) is finally being released. In Bodies Bodies Bodies (out August 5), Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha'la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace, and Pete Davidson attend a homicidal hurricane party.


Dan Chen's Accepted analyzes the constraints and unfairness of the U.S. school system through four students at T. M. Landry, a school in Louisiana known for getting Black students into Ivy League institutions until a New York Times exposé. And Rebeca Huntt's Beba is an autobiographical film identity, Dominican father, Venezuelan mother, and New York City childhood.

Family Breakdown

Where would an indie-centric guide be without films depicting family stress? Jonas Carpignano's A Chiara is about a Calabrian girl whose father disappears and has organized-crime ties. Julija (Gracija Filipovic) finds a way out of her lonely life under her domineering father when an affluent stranger offers to buy her family's land. At 11, Ayumu Watanabe's Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko's shy protagonist is disturbed by her mother's bad taste in men. James Morosini's I Love My Dad (in theaters August 5) depicts a suicidal youngster catfished by his estranged father (Patton Oswalt). In Jean-Marc Vallée's 2005 film C.R.A.Z.Y., a young gay man's (Marc-André Grondin) sexuality pits him against his father (Michel Côté).

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