top of page
  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Sundance 2022: 'Emergency', 'The Cow Who Sang A Song Into The Future' | Capsule Reviews

RJ Cyler and Donald Elise Watkins in the woods, Mia Maestro emerging from a river
Emergency (L), The Cow Who Sang A Song Into The Future (R)


Look, it might be classified as comedy but get ready to put your discomfort cloak on because the first 10 minutes of director Carey Williams and writer K.D. Dávila's Emergency certainly aren't holding your hand. Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and Sean (RJ Cyler) are two friends attending college when on a night of ''legendary'' party run, things take a frightful turn for them. Coming back to their house, they discover their front door open and a passed out girl (Maddie Nichols) in the living room, while their roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) is in his room getting high, unaware of this. Complicating matters for these three students of minority backgrounds is that the girl is white, leading them to try to figure out how to help her while not involving cops in the situation.

That premise comes with both good and bad in this case as it does offer another viewpoint for ''bro comedy'' genre that Williams draws from, thus going in a slightly different direction than you might expect first. On a weaker side, the movie does get stuck in the premise for quite a long time and the second act keeps repeating the same humour, story beats and dialogue, at times ad nauseam. Last 20 to 30 minutes however does something miraculous and starts paying off everything set up earlier in a big way, and while some of it falls to spoiler territory, it has to be noted that it gets really emotional, real and terrifying which is extremely fulfilling.

Watkins, Cyler and Chacon as a trio just mix and match insanely well with both their comedic and emotional material but also bringing something of their own. Cyler has all the charisma in the world, Chacon delivers the best lines and Watkins digs a little bit deeper, notably in that finale where him and Cyler bring much of the film's ideas to fruition in a resounding way.

Smileys: Ending, acting

Frowneys: Premise


Sebastian Chacon, RJ Cyler and Donald Elise Watkins in the woods
Amazon Studios


Coming in hot and heavy to collect the award for best title of the year, and perhaps the new decade, is The Cow Who Sang A Song Into The Future (La vaca que cantó una canción hacia el futuro in Spanish) from director Francisca Alegría. Written by Fernanda Urrejola, Manuela Infante and Alegría, this Chilean fantasy drama follows a farmer family in a small town, all the while fish are found dead in a local river due to polluting negligence. From the river arises Magdalena (Mia Maestro), a woman known to be deceased herself, who finds her way back to the family farm, to where her daughter Cecilia (Leonor Varela) returns with her seemingly gender questioning child Tomas (Enzo Ferrada).

Very much like the fish preferably would, you should be prepared to just go with the flow that Alegría creates along with most of her filmmaking team. Vivid sound design and composer Pierre Desprats should make that transition easy as ''The Cow's'' sonic landscapes dance together beautifully, transporting you from place to place with grace. Magical realism lingers in the air with plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle allusions to environmental issues that also reflect personal relationships inside this particular family, whether that's self-image or grief for example.

Moments that very much threaten to break that immersion (or illusion) are there; some underwritten dialogue for characters who are not Magdalena that is simply there to fill the air, or underwhelming set designs that, of course, might stem from budget limitations. Whenever you use fantasy as a weapon of sorts, that should also have an impact on visual storytelling. With ''The Cow'', the pressure unfortunately falls on actors and sounds too much.

Smileys: Sound editing, atmosphere, score

Frowneys: Dialogue, set decoration


Mia Maestro emerging from a river with a helmet
Sundance Institute

After Misery's logo with the text ''all things film & television'' underneath it.
bottom of page