“You Won’t Be Alone” calls out for a queer reading, with the innate fluidity of gender and expression of character experiences. And it requires more patience and consideration than you might be ready for. But few films enchanted me at Sundance this year like this one.
Oklahoma-born Mickey Reece is no stranger to the surreal and deconstructive: Take 2017’s “Alien“, who reconsidered Elvis Presley in a very different way than Baz Luhrmann did. Or last year’s”Agnes,” which starts out as an exorcism picture before boldly veering off into a more contemporary, contemplative direction at the halfway mark. “Country Gold” takes those instincts as far as they’ve ever gone before, with Reece imagining a fictional meeting between two titans at the height of their respective country music careers: George Jones (Reece regular Ben Hall) and Troyal Brux (Reece himself), a crunchy thin analogue to Garth Brooks at the height of his fame in the mid-90s.
Jones has invited Troyal to Oklahoma for an intimate chat, something the latter takes as validation for his more focus-grouped, crowd-friendly school of pop country. However, it is not long after arriving that he learns the true reason for Jones’ invitation: after their night together, Jones plans to cryogenically freeze himself so that he can survive his enemies and opponents. Before he goes, he wants to see what kind of world he’s leaving behind for country music.
The ensuing odyssey is hard to describe and yet impossible to look away from, flipping between form and genre with Reece’s characteristic agility. Black-and-white indie movie hangout scenes turn into ink-sketch animations and groovy 70s-crime homages as Jones tells big stories about his life and Troyal struggles to keep up. But all of these episodic excursions hover over a surprisingly melancholic tale of two men at opposite ends of the mirror, wondering what about themselves is reflected in the other. What will they embrace? What will they reject? It’s offbeat and unpredictable in exactly the way I love, and its end credits rival “Pearl” is for its astounding commitment to the piece.
If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the connections we make online can often be just as real to us (if not more so) than those we make in meatspace. Joe Hunting‘s warm, inviting “We Met in Virtual Reality” is an ode to this principle, focusing on more people visiting the virtual reality social network VRChat. There is no point-and-laugh condescension to be found; of course, there’s plenty of room for hilarity, but the netizens of VRChat would chuckle right along with you when their VR car flips over on a virtual highway, or when Hunting pans over from a serious conversation about accessibility to reveal that the other participant is Kermit the Frog.