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TV/Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘Emergency’ (dir. Carey Williams) | Sundance 2022

A dark comedy with some Gen Z satire and social commentary packed in, ‘Emergency’ is definitely a highlight of my Sundance 2022 experience. This funny college party movie quickly shifts its focus to touch on problems today’s youth face. The film follows three young men of color who are forced to weigh the pros and cons of calling the police after discovering a drunk white girl knocked out in their house.

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Emergency
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Director: Carey Williams
Cast: RJ Cyler, Donald Elise Watkins, Sebastian Chacon, Sabrina Carpenter, Maddie Nichols
Language: English
Runtime: 104 minutes
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Release date: May 20 in Theaters // May 27 on Amazon Prime Video

A dark comedy with some Gen Z satire and social commentary packed in, Emergency is definitely a highlight of my Sundance 2022 experience. This funny college party movie quickly shifts its focus to touch on problems today’s youth face. The film follows three young men of color who are forced to weigh the pros and cons of calling the police after discovering a drunk white girl knocked out in their house.

There are certainly some hard-hitting topics tackled here, but Carey Williams manages to address these without making the viewer feel the weight of them. Systemic oppression and racism on a college campus might seem like a heavy logline, but it never feels heavy on the audience. The stakes are high in an intense way, but never in an off-putting way.

Great performances all around. RJ Cyler really can pull off any role you throw at him. Donald Elise Watkins does a terrific job at illuminating the irony of the real world and how it stereotypes Black men and people of color. Their interactions give this character-driven collegiate disaster flick an incredible sense of direction and a sense of heart. It takes something as special as that to find humor in this kind of racial discourse.

Friendship is a tricky thing, as is evident in Emergency, and I think every pair of friends has its own Donald Elise Watkins and RJ Cyler. I kept comparing them to the angel on your right shoulder and the devil on your left shoulder with the first telling you what you should do and the second telling you what you want to do.

This gets uncomfortable at times, and that’s a good thing. That’s the point of this movie. I think a lot of young people are going to learn a lot from this movie and see themselves in the scenarios these characters are forced to grow through — at least on some level.

All of the events in this film take place over one wild night of partying — or lack of partying — and that situation gives way for so many opportunities to dive into the interpersonal conflicts between these characters, the bigger picture ideas about race, and some humorous moments to lighten the mood. It’s a disaster of a night but a successful movie!

It can be unnerving to think about how little control we have over our world, especially in times of crisis, and that message could never be more clear than in Emergency. This film does a terrifying but terrific job at telling that story.

Emergency screened during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It will be distributed by Amazon Studios with a theatrical release set for May 20 followed by a premiere on Amazon Prime Video on May 27.

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