Join us weekly as Rotten Tomatoes reports on what’s 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 in our inaugural 2021 installment of Indie Fresh List, we have a theater adaptation about a famed night in history, a historical political documentary about MLK and the FBI, and newly available on VOD, a tale about a young woman going to extreme lengths to handle grief — and get vengeance. In our Spotlight Section, we have a recent drama starring The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby and a fantastical documentary about people with autism who are non-verbal. Catching up on some trailers that dropped while we were on hiatus, we have new clips featuring Zendaya, Daniel Kaluuya, Rosamund Pike, Trevante Rhoades, and Tilda Swinton.
One Night in Miami (2020)
A fictional re-telling of a famous night in history when Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) met up after the latter was crowned the Heavyweight Champion of the world in 1964 is at the center of the drama for our first pick this week. As we singled out in our Ridiculously Early Actor and Director predictions, debut feature director Regina King (Watchmen) has assembled an incredible ensemble that includes Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and newcomer Eli Goree. King showcases her skill not just behind the camera but in crafting elevated performances as well, and all the aforementioned names are in the Oscars conversation.
Playing in select theaters now and streaming on Amazon Prime.
Director Sam Pollard received unpreceded access to the FBI archives while assembling the historical crime documentary MLK/FBI. Though it can be classified as a crime doc, it is an equally powerful examination of the politics of activism and serves as an expose of the brutal surveillance and harassment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, who labeled King the “most dangerous” Black person in America. “Pollard has many ways of providing material to immerse the viewer in the cultural moment and cut the tensions of government intrusion with interviews and archival footage,” writes Aaron Neuwirth of We Live Entertainment.
Playing in theaters and available on VOD now.
Promising Young Woman (2020)
Writer-director and Killing Eve showrunner Emerald Fennel had a clear vision for her grief-stricken dramedy that was more than a rage-filled revenge plot. “I think lots of people think that this film is very sort of scorched-earth, but actually… much of the movie is about forgiveness and redemption and the possibility of those things. But those things only come after some honesty and some self-scrutiny and apology,” Fennel told us when we chatted earlier this month. A favorite with critics since its Sundance debut, the film was released by Focus Features on Christmas Day, and just three weeks later, we now get it on VOD.
Available on VOD now.
The Reason I Jump (2020)
Inspired by the acclaimed Japanese memoir originally written by a young man named Naoki Higashida when he was just 13 years old, the documentary The Reason I Jump explores neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people, offering fresh, fascinating insight into the world as seen through their eyes. Critics were enraptured with praise for the film — it currently sits at 97% on the Tomatometer — which illustrates that just because you don’t speak, it doesn’t mean you have nothing to say. It will be “revelatory for viewers who know little about the subject, and affirmative for caregivers and parents of children on the autism spectrum,” writes Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle.
Playing in select theaters.
Pieces of a Woman (2020)
In Pieces of a Woman, Vanessa Kirby (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Hobbs & Shaw, Netflix’s The Crown) plays a young mother who loses her child during childbirth and then attempts the herculean task of piecing herself back together after the tragedy. Things are not helped by her narcissistic mother and her well-meaning but clueless husband, who also happens to be a recovering addict. Kirby, who picked up the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival, is a favorite to nab a nomination in the same category for the Oscars, and Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak.com writes that “Kirby’s magnificence alone makes Pieces of a Woman worthy of a look.”
Streaming now on Netflix.
The Human Voice
Tilda Swinton stars in Pedro Almodóvar’s (Pain & Glory) first English-language film — and clocking in at 30 minutes, it’s a short one — inspired by the play of the same name by Jean Cocteau about a woman dealing with some personal issues in dramatic fashion.
Recording artist-turned-actress Audra Day and Trevante Rhodes appear in this clip from the long-awaited biopic about Jazz legend Billie Holiday and her frequent legal troubles.
An examination and celebration of the unseen life of actor Pat Morita, who the world knew as the sage Karate sensei Mr. Miyagi.
A second trailer from the upcoming historical thriller Judas and the Black Messiah goes in-depth on the figures from the dramatized take on the assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton; starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield.
Thumbnail image by Focus Features