Emily The Criminal, The Territory, and Orphan: First Kill and More

New indie offerings from Aubrey Plaza, Julia Stiles, Isabella Furhman and producer Darren Aronofsky

by and | August 19, 2022 | Comments

Join us weekly as Rotten Tomatoes reports on what indie features are streaming. From promising releases by new voices to experimental efforts from storied filmmakers – or perhaps the next indie darling to go the distance for end-of-year accolades – we will break it all down for you here each week.

This week for our Indie Fresh List, we have supersized addition with new films opening this week as well as a few standouts from last week. First, a killer Aubrey Plaza star turn that thrillingly weaponizes Millennial economic anxiety, and we also feature a Finnish award winner about young womanhood, two documentaries one that brilliantly investigates the past and another that examines an urgent global sociopolitical issue, and a long-awaited sequel to a beloved sleeper hit. 

New This Weekend

Orphan: First Kill (2022)


13 years after the cult classic horror first film Orphan Ester played by Isabelle Furhman returns to theaters in a prequel Orphan: First Kill. This latest installment which is already surpassing the original with its fresh rating is earning praise from critics though many admit it is a grand addition to the genre but rather a serviceable pulpy horror flick that works quite well. Making a concerted effort to authentically blend the source material into a campier horror flick the “modern gothic of the first film transforms here into a perfectly fitting explosion of operatic schlock.” wrote Richard Whittaker of The Austin Chronicle.

The Territory (2022)


Also opening this weekend (and in stark contrast to the frivolous excess of Orphan: First Kill ) is NatGeo’s dramatic environmental documentary The Territory. One of the most impactful, moving, and consequential documentaries about climate change to be released since An Inconvenient Truth. The Territory documents the decades-long battle against deforestation in the Brazilian rainforest and the heartbreaking devastation that this fight has wrought on all sides. Despite the nuanced treatment of the issue, many critics remarked if its objective was to incite activism, that plea was hard to ignore. “If the intent of the filmmakers was to help stir international support for both the increasingly threatened Amazon rainforest and its besieged Indigenous inhabitants, consider it mission accomplished,” wrote Martin Dumfy Georgia Straight.

Still in theaters

Girl Picture (2022)


The coming-of-age film genre has an exciting new entrant with this Finnish film about three teenage girls discovering themselves and their sexuality, both straight and queer. The pain and the exhilaration of young romance are on full display, and we see a touching vulnerability (as well as some lovely, nuanced acting) in the three friends’ interactions with each other. Bolstered by sumptuous cinematography, Girl Picture won the coveted Audience Award for the World Cinema: Dramatic program at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. And as if to prove the point, critic Marya E. Gates, writing for RogerEbert.com, predicts the film will be “destined for many comfort rewatches in the future.” 

Free Chol Soo Lee (2022)


We’ve grown far more aware in the past few years of our country’s unfortunate problem with Asian bigotry, so it’s the perfect time for a film like Free Chol Soo Lee, which looks to the past and finds a sadly forgotten story that’s painfully still relevant. Chol Soo Lee was a Korean immigrant in San Francisco when he was wrongfully convicted of the 1973 murder of a Chinatown gang leader. Lee was sentenced to life in prison, but the injustice of his conviction rallied an Asian protest movement that eventually won his freedom in 1983. Filmmakers Julie Ha and Eugene Yi craft a brisk documentary that deftly mixes contemporary interviews with stunning archival footage, reminding audiences that when it comes to race, American justice has rarely been blind.  Nguyên Lê, writing for JumpCut Online, praised the film as “a work full of empathy and encouragement,” while Josh Flanders of the Chicago Reader lauds the film for “providing Lee a chance to have agency and tell his story.” 

Spotlight Pick

Emily the Criminal (2022)


Aubrey Plaza, one of our current queens of indie cinema, is great at playing protagonists you’re not quite sure whether to root for. And like she pulled off in 2017’s underseen (yet wonderful) Ingrid Goes West, Plaza will make you feel uncomfortable about whichever rooting interest you settle on. Here Plaza plays the titular Emily, a young woman crippled by student debt and a criminal record. With seemingly no prospects, Emily finds herself in a shady gig making purchases on stolen credit cards, but she quickly gets seduced by the rush and rewards of the black-market economy. Emily the Criminal is a ruthlessly entertaining thriller that pulls no punches in its social commentary, with Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt calling it “a scrappy, pitch-black study of just how easy it is to step into the void.” Emily the Criminal premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it is playing select theaters.

Thumbnail image by Roadside Films

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