This year's Sundance Film Festival is proving to be an edition for the ages, supplying more than its typical share of indie gems. Extending a tradition that gave us Boyhood in 2014 and Brooklyn last year, Kenneth Lonergan's mighty grief drama Manchester by the Sea pummeled Park City audiences. It's all but guaranteed to top many critics' 2016 lists. (And if that's not the case, we're in for a staggering 12 months.) Elsewhere, indie auteurs rebounded with their strongest work in decades, reminding us of Sundance's occasional status as a fountain of youth. Here are the five movies we've loved so far (with many more to come):
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Little Men Parents fight over possession of a Brooklyn building while their children grow into adolescents in Ira Sachs's keenly observed New York story. It has the same exquisite ear for urban life as Sachs's prior dramas Keep the Lights On and Love Is Strange, this time with a greater emphasis on the kids. Read our review
Love & Friendship The cattier, comic side of Jane Austen emerges in a total return to form for director Whit Stillman (Metropolitan). Kate Beckinsale excels as the movie's high-born 18th-century schemer, anchoring a spin on classic literature that's fresh and deliciously rotten at the same time. Read our review
Manchester by the Sea The unquestioned sensation of the festival (and a movie that already feels like a classic), Kenneth Lonergan's New England-set drama—about a man coping with buried trauma—brought audiences to tears and standing ovations. Casey Affleck joins the ranks of giants in a tremendously moving portrait. Read our review
Sing Street John Carney, the writer-director of Once, returns with a valentine to '80s pop and the Irish kids who embraced it. Anyone who's ever started a band will find these tuneful teens and their dorky Duran Duran-inspired music videos impossible to resist. Read our review
Wiener-Dog Todd Solondz continues his career-long plunge into the dark side of human nature with this fierce, sneakily profound tale about a Dachshund and the neurotics who care for it (not always well). It's Solondz's sharpest commentary on human mortality and regret to date. Read our review.