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Robert Levey II appears in The Cathedral by Ricky D'Ambrose, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Barton Cortright.

Movie Reviews

[Sundance ’22] ‘The Cathedral’ review: Clever film may be too creative

Moving pictures.

The Cathedral is an intimate look at a Long Island family. The film spans two decades and follows their ups and downs. Part coming of age story, part deconstruction of an American family in the 1990s, it is an emotional ride told through deceptively simple storytelling. The film may be best described as a visual essay. The Cathedral starts with a series of photos and static shots. There is narration to set up the story. It introduces the audiences to the characters while drawing them into the story. 

Money is a big theme of the film. As the years progress, finances become a larger part of the story. This gives greater insight into the family and also leads to questions of worth and the value of material objects. This all adds further context to everything. The Cathedral is mainly about people. The opening narration makes it seem like it is going to be a coming of age story. That is true, but it is just as much about a father and his change. There are red flags from the very beginning and watching it all play out is interesting.

Still, the matter of fact style of the film may end up turning some off. Telling a story filled with so much emotion in such a dispassionate way is clever, but many moments end up being dry. One can almost see one set being broken down to set up the props for the next moment. It is hard to shake the feeling, The Cathedral is a neat idea that would have been better served as a short film.

[Sundance '22] 'The Cathedral' review: Clever film may be too creative

Siena Marino, Steven Alonte, Brian d’Arcy James, Madeline Hudelson and Monica Barbaro appear in The Cathedral by Ricky D’Ambrose, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Barton Cortright.

Director Ricky D’Ambrose’s creativity shines through the entire movie. There is some fantastic camerawork with some great use of color. The sound design is also fantastic with a smart mix of loud settings and quiet and more somber scenes. The Cathedral almost plays out like a home video or looking through someone’s photo album. Much like looking at someone else’s pictures, it lacks the feeling of actually being there.

The Sundance Film Festival is online January 20- January 30. Tickets can be purchased and a full lineup can be found here.

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