If you’ve ever had a jaw-dropping experience watching the horror film “Midsommar,” cried about a breakup alongside Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird” or tried to add just the right amount of glitter to your makeup look to pass for a cast member of “Euphoria,” you need to know about A24.
In recent years, A24 has been behind some of the biggest hits in pop culture that have gained mass popularity. Even while these hits have garnered millions of fans and even critical acclaim, standout movies like “Hereditary” and “Moonlight” are only the tip of the iceberg.
The studio’s lesser-known films are equally unique experiences as the major films you may be more familiar with. Whether you’re a film buff or an occasional Netflix user, here are some lesser-known A24 movies that deserve your attention.
“20th Century Women”
Dorothea Fields, a single mother in her mid-50’s, enlists the help of two younger women to help guide her son through adolescence. Stunning performances by Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning transport you to the late 1970s, a period of cultural shift and social justice crusades, immersed in a world eagerly sitting on the cusp of change. While the plot is loose, the focus is not on a driving story but rather the growth of characters and their intertwined relationships.
Jamie, Dorothea’s son, is navigating the confusing world of adolescence and making mistakes alongside every other teenager. But the support of multiple strong-willed women makes his upbringing unique and shifts the audience’s perspective of the stereotypical “teenage son” role that is usually portrayed in movies.
While each character is given separate moments of on-screen development, the ways that their stories weave together to drive home the theme of family and adds to the film’s heartwarming tone.
“The Farewell,” unique for its bilingual dialogue in English and Mandarin Chinese, is a heartfelt film with strong notes of nostalgia and melancholy that all viewers can relate to. Emerging comedian and actress Awkwafina stars in the role of Billi, a young Chinese woman living in New York who, along with her family, discovers that her Nai Nai (grandmother) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
All of the family rush to China to spend as much time with Nai Nai as they can. But the key to their visit is that Nai Nai believes they are all present for a (fake) family wedding. Billi’s family chooses to keep her grandmother in the dark about her diagnosis, and Billi struggles with this decision for much of their visit, but later comes to terms with it. Billi and her family’s journey is poignant and deeply familiar, raw and honest with a talented cast that brings great emotion to the screen.
This film presents a family dynamic that is not only familiar but also incredibly underrepresented in media. The all-Asian cast and bilingual component of this film create a heartwarming story that perfectly balances culture with the struggles and strengths of a family bond.
“Euphoria” fans, pay attention. “Waves” follows an action-packed teenage love story full of twists, turns and melodrama. The film focuses on an African-American family with two teenage children living in the suburbs of South Florida, presenting the challenges that they all must overcome both together and alone.
The son, Tyler, is a high school wrestler coming to the end of his high school career and looking forward to a promising career. But his future is cut short by an injury that keeps him on the bench, dampens his spirit and leads to a long string of bad decisions that end in grave consequences. In the wake of Tyler’s choices, his family is left to pick up the pieces and find a place to put the blame.
The film’s star-studded cast including “Euphoria” star Alexa Demie, Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, and “Hamilton” star Renée Elise Goldsberry portray a touching story of love and forgiveness that is palpable in the dream-like Florida backdrop, which is present throughout the many ugly moments and mistakes the family members must face.
A24 often catches famous stars on their up-and-coming, capturing raw performances that only indie films seem to be capable of. Ashton Sanders, star of the Oscar-winning A24 film “Moonlight,” acts in the role of Bigger Thomas, a young African-American man living in Chicago who has the opportunity to work as a live-in chauffeur for a wealthy family.
Bigger is now brushing elbows with the white upper-class lifestyle and ideals that he has always looked at with contempt, but stays despite his internal conflict. He soon becomes familiar with the family’s outspoken daughter, Mary, who regularly requests rides to parties and radical left-wing political meetings run by her boyfriend.
They develop a rapport but Mary begins to get too close for comfort. Mary puts Bigger in several uncomfortable situations, but he obliges out of fear that he will lose his job. Unfortunately, one of these instances turns into a gruesome night that puts Bigger in line for consequences much worse than losing his job.
“Native Son” is a compelling, character-driven story that alludes to issues of race and class and leaves the characters and viewers alike in heartache by the time it’s over.
“Obvious Child” is another of the studio’s lineup of heartfelt comedies, but no less entertaining than the rest. The film is short and sweet, filled with jokes and comically awkward scenarios that any 20-something can relate to.
The central character, Donna, is an aspiring comedian whose life and misfortunes make for great material when she’s onstage. But after an unplanned pregnancy with a drunken hookup, her life takes a turn that she can’t use as a bit in her comedy routine. While nervous about this uncertain next step in her life, Donna finds herself on a journey full of self-love and independence.
This film is particularly interesting for the way it tackles women’s issues and the weighty topic of abortion honestly and maturely, despite the witty banter and abundance of comedy that lifts the story.
“The Florida Project”
Famous Wisconsinite Willem Dafoe takes on the role of a hotel manager in this beautifully heartbreaking film, working alongside a talented cast that, interestingly enough, is mostly children. “The Florida Project” follows the life of a mischievous little girl named Moonee who lives in a budget motel with her financially struggling mother.
Moonee’s situation is not unique. Her ragtag group of friends and their families live in the motel as well, and while they find their own adventures, they’re confined to parking lots and hotel stairways. The motel is only blocks away from a busy commercial street that caters to tourists visiting Walt Disney World in Florida, and offers a new perspective of the popular destination where “dreams come true.”
Moonee and her friends’ innocence is bittersweet as they giggle running up and down the halls, naive to the severity of their situation. This film gives the audience a glimpse into the life of the millions of people who are living in poverty and gives attention to an underrepresented and misunderstood class that rarely receive positive portrayal in the media.
“The Florida Project” is surprisingly funny, honest and as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking. The child actors do a fantastic job in their roles and their lightheartedness gives way to much more serious topics in a refreshing style.