Summer 2017 Independent Movie Guide

Looking through this summer’s release calendar, it seems as if every weekend, there is a big budget blockbuster coming out, from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Wonder Woman to War for the Planet of the Apes and Spiderman: Homecoming. While it might seem as though smaller, independent movies are taking the summer off, this is not the case.

Below is a list of some of ten original, independent films slated for release this summer.

It Comes at Night (June 9)
The relatively new A24 has quickly made a name for itself as one of the top independent film distributors. Since its inception in 2013, it has successfully released Ex Machina, Room, the Lobster, the Witch, and Green Room. This June sees the release of their newest horror film, It Comes at Night, headlined by the Gift and Loving star Joel Edgerton.

Judging from the movie’s atmospheric poster and trailer, it seems as though it’s about a family, Edgerton as the patriarch, hiding from some threat in their cabin in the woods, but plans unravel as another family arrives, seeking refuge. It seems like a less campy, more visceral version of Cabin Fever, perhaps with sprinklings of the Witch. Last summer proved successful for horror movies, with the Conjuring 2 and Don’t Breathe both toppling the box office. It

Comes at Night certainly has the precedent to be this summer’s surprise hit horror movie.

The Book of Henry (June 16)
The Book of Henry is Colin Trevorrow’s collateral for making Jurassic World. The trailer seems, unique to say the least, as it follows single mom Naomi Watts (hit or miss as of late) as a single mother raising Room’s Jacob Tremblay and Jaeden Lieberher as the titular Henry. Once Henry discovers their next-door neighbor, Christina, is being abused by her uncle, he devises a plan to save her.

The trailer makes it seems as though it has potential to be really profound, but it seems to be struggling to stick to a single theme. It seems odd to tackle the abuse subject from the outside in, and all these subplots (Henry being gifted, school struggles, Naomi Watts’ personal life) seems as though they have potential to undermine the severity of the abuse.

One of the possible shining graces of the movie could be its cast. While Naomi Watts has had a less than stellar past few years (taking roles in the Divergent series, which crashed and burned, starring in the deservedly forgotten horror thriller Shut In, and her role in the heavy handed 3 Generations, previously About Ray), her name still carries weight from her Mulholland Drive and the Impossible days. Besides Jacob Tremblay returning after Room (he was, unfortunately, also in Shut In), recent SNL departure Bobby Monihayn, Sarah Silverman following up her unexpectedly dramatic turn in I Smile Back, and a post Breaking Bad Dean Norris all have supporting roles. The movie might turn out to be exceptional, but it may fall victim to its own ambition.

The Beguiled (June 23)
Technically, this isn’t a wholly original movie, as it’s a remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood film, in which he played an injured Union soldier who, out of options, is taken in by a Confederate girl’s boarding school. Colin Farrell plays the soldier, while Nicole Kidman plays the headmistress. Tensions rise as Farrell begins conning his way into the women’s hearts, including Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. Mistrust, deception, and revenge ensue.

Besides the all-star cast, the reason this movie is so highly anticipated is because of its director, Sofia Coppola. She seems to be ditching her chic, vapid aesthetic, so prominent in her previous movies like the Bling Ring and Marie Antoinette. Rather, she seems to be going for the moody, brooding atmosphere of the original. While the trailer still contains some of her flourishes, like the pink script font, the Beguiled seems to be more of a departure from her past works, and a more serious attempt at filmmaking. Combined her directing, the star-studded cast, and the feminist undertones, the Beguiled could possibly hold itself strong through the rest of the year, making it to awards season.

A Ghost Story (July 7)
Certainly one of the more bizarre and original trailers to be released this year, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story stars recent Oscar winner Casey Affleck as a ghost stuck behind a sheet with two holes in it. Yup, Charlie Brown territory. After his death, he watches over his wife, Rooney Mara, as she grieves and tries to move on.

Rumor has it, this movie contains a 4 minute, single take scene of a distraught Rooney Mara eating a pie off the floor. Sounds super indie, right? The trailer, and presumably the entirety of the film, is shot in a square aspect ratio by Lowery who, after directing Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, is going back to his smaller roots ala Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, also starring Affleck and Mara. The trailer features a quote from Vanity Fair writer Richard Lawson, who describes A Ghost Story as “a meditative poem about the enormity of time.” That’s certainly a far cry from the franchise-building movies populating theaters this summer. A Ghost Story definitely won’t be for everyone, as I’m sure many will find its style bizarre and unnecessarily silly, but to others, it has the potential to be a unique and moving exploration of grief.

Atomic Blonde (July 28)
This is a $30 million, R rated action movie starring Charlize Theron as an MI6 agent in Cold War Germany, based on the graphic novel, the Coldest City by Anthony Johnston. Other than being directed by stuntman turned filmmaker David Leitch, who’s signed on to direct Deadpool 2, the most interesting aspect of this film is its star. Charlize Theron has been cementing herself as an action star for years now. From as far back as Aeon Flux in 2005, through Hancock and Prometheus, up to and including Mad Max: Fury Road and the Fate of the Furious, Theron has been steadily finding work in the action genre. Atomic Blonde has potential to play like a female John Wick which, based on strong word of mouth, was able to have a sequel which doubled the original’s gross. After Ghost in the Shell crashed and burnt, this could be one of our last chances to support original female action heroes, especially in a violent, R rated movie.

The Dark Tower (August 4)
The Stephen King movie that has everyone talking is the upcoming reimagining of It. However, another King adaptation is fast approaching. The Dark Tower, based on the first book in the series, the Gunslinger, roams a world reminiscent of the Old West in a quest to protect the Dark Tower, a mystical structure that supports multiple dimensions. If you think this sounds hard to grasp, you’re not alone, as the trailer and poster have received minimal buzz, especially when compared to the record-breaking view count for the first trailer of It.

Idris Elba will star as the Gunslinger opposite Matthew McConaughey in a surprisingly villainous role. It’s directed by Nikolaj Arcel, previously known for his Oscar nominated Danish film, A Royal Affair. Westerns are always a tough sell to audiences, and when combining that with a hard to comprehend plot, it’s little surprise that this movie is struggling to gain traction. It could end up being the surprise hit of the summer, as films released in the first week of August often end up being surprise hits of the summer (Guardians of the Galaxy, Suicide Squad, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles), but it wouldn’t be a surprise if this movie crashes and burns. This might end up being a standalone, instead of the cinematic universe starter it hopes.

Detroit (August 4)
As the only woman to win the Best Director Oscar for the Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow hasn’t made a narrative feature since 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty. She’s returning with Detroit, focusing on the 1967 riots, and its screenplay is by her collaborator on her previously mentioned two films, Mark Boal. Its production company, Annapurna pictures, has been successfully releasing independent movies since 2012, with titles like the Master, Her, Spring Breakers, American Hustle, and Joy to their name.

Detroit boasts a strong cast. John Boyega (Finn in the new Star Wars movies), Anthony Mackie (most known for playing Falcon in the Marvel movies), John Krasinski (Jim from the Office and the star of the upcoming show, Jack Ryan), Jack Reynor (Sing Street), Samira Wiley (Poussey from Orange is the New Black) and Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, and previously cast as Pennywise in It, before Cary Fukanaga walked away from the project) all costar. The trailer gives off a mosaic vibe, with many different subplots potentially blending together.

Featuring the grittiness Bigelow has become known for, Detroit will be interesting counter programming for the typical summer fare. The Hurt Locker went on to be a major awards contender, and winner, with a similarly timed summer release date back in 2009, so don’t count
this one out just yet.

Wind River (August 4)
Taylor Sheriden, the screenwriter of Sicario and Hell or High Water, is directing Wind River, an action thriller that screened at this year’s Cannes film festival, based on a screenplay he also penned. It stars Jeremy Renner (hot off of Arrival) and Elizabeth Olsen (taking a step out of the Marvel universe to go back to her indie roots ala Martha Marcy May Marlene) as an unlikely pair who investigate a murder on a Native American reservation. The film’s recently released trailer highlights a brooding atmosphere in the snow covered Wyoming. Come August, some may be looking to escape from the heat for a few hours, and what better way to do that than sitting in an air conditioned theater, watching people solve crimes in the snow?

The Glass Castle (August 11)
The Glass Castle is based on Jeannette Walls’ memoir of the same name, in which she recounts her nontraditional upbringing, the product of mentally ill and poverty stricken parents. I was required to read it in high school, and I remember being impressed that Walls was able to shed compassion towards her parents, who seemed to make life so difficult.

Brie Larson stars as Jeannette in her older years (now a successful New Yorker) as she looks back on her childhood when she runs into her homeless parents on the street, played by the always underrated Woody Harrelson and, with her second appearance on this list, Naomi Watts. The trailer seems to, at times, almost romanticize the tumultuous upbringing, which I worry would be irresponsible, but if it remains faithful to the book, it would focus more on Larson as she attempts to make peace with her past while forging a different future. Also, Max Greenfield, from New Girl and Hello My Name is Doris, plays Jeannette’s present day boyfriend, so that’s a perk.

Ingrid Goes West (August 11)
The red band trailer for Ingrid Goes West immediately sold me on this movie. Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) stars as the title character, a social media addict and seemingly all around horrible person, who uproots her life and moves to California with Elizabeth Olsen (another two-timer for this list). It seems twisted and potentially dark (look at Aubrey Plaza’s eyes as she scrolls through Instagram in the trailer). O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Wyatt Russell, Ice Cube and Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn’s children, costar in Matt Spicer’s feature debut.

Just when you thought your summer was going to consist solely of big budget spectacle and cinematic universe building movies, you know have ten options for smaller, original, (mostly) independent movies being released this summer. Some may require active searching (as it is often hard to find a theater playing a smaller, independent movie) but, if you’re trying to be more than a casual observer of film, make sure to keep these ten movies on your radar this summer.

Montclair State | New Jersey

Robert O'Connor

Robert O'Connor is a journalism student with a minor in film, currently studying at Montclair State University. He has combined his passions for writing and film to present different pieces, relating to all aspects of cinema. Some of Robert's favorite movies include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, There Will Be Blood, A Clockwork Orange, and the Lobster.