Saoirse Ronan explores ‘ugliness’ of addiction with Sundance film ‘The Outrun’

“The Outrun,” a memoir about recovery, has sold well over 100,000 copies in the United Kingdom alone, becoming a lifeline to countless readers battling with alcoholism.

So when four-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan picked up the book during lockdown, she had no doubt that she wanted to help turn it into a film.

The resulting movie premiered at the Sundance film festival on Friday, with Ronan playing Amy Liptrot, a music journalist who returned home from her destructive life in London to the wild beauty of Scotland’s Orkney Islands to heal.

“It’s a subject that I always wanted to delve into at some stage, having my own experience with it, as we all have,” Ronan told AFP.

“I knew that as an actor, there’s going to be so much that you’ll get to play — so much color, so many highs and lows.”

In the film, Liptrot unexpectedly finds succor in the stunning wildlife, rugged landscapes and crashing waves of her home islands — moments that are cross-cut with memories of her sabotaging relationships with her partner, friends and family.

“There was so much ugliness I got to bring in this person,” said Ronan, who is also a producer on the film. 

“When she’s at her worst, she’s pretty mean to the people she’s closest to, and I’d never really gotten the chance to do that.”

“I don’t necessarily think I would have been ready to take on a role like that, even two or three years ago.”

Early reviews were full of praise, with IndieWire calling it both a “towering piece of landscape art” and a “rugged character study.”

– ‘Love me!’ –

The movie was among a packed schedule on the second day of Sundance, the influential indie film festival co-founded by Robert Redford, which takes places in the mountains of Utah each winter. 

Also on show was surreal sci-fi “Love Me,” starring Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun as an AI-powered buoy and an orbiting satellite who strike up a romance after humanity has wiped itself off the Earth.

Surely the most original entry at this year’s fest, “Love Me” asks whether artificial intelligence can feel loneliness, or even love — and what it might think of humans, long after we have departed this planet.

Apparently the sole two surviving sentient devices, the buoy and the satellite try to overcome their loneliness by chatting across thousands of miles and over millions of years, forging an unlikely bond.

Building up their personalities from scratch, they scour the internet for information about the departed human civilization, mimicking the often cringeworthy and absurd human behavior they find on influencers’ social media accounts.

“For us, it’s not really a movie about AI. But it’s a movie about us, seen through the lens of AI,” said co-director Andy Zuchero at the movie’s world premiere in Utah on Friday.

“Sort of trying to unpack humanity circa 2024.”

Stewart and Yeun initially provide voices for the buoy and satellite, but gradually appear on screen in various visual forms as the AI machines construct a bizarre metaverse of their own.

“It’s about a world in which we’re no longer here,” said Stewart, on the red carpet.

With performative internet videos providing the only surviving imprint of humanity, “the echo that we’ve left is primarily screaming ‘Love me!'” said the former “Twilight” star.

Stewart will premiere a second film at Sundance on Saturday. “Love Lies Bleeding” portrays a violent and criminal affair between a gym manager and a bisexual bodybuilder.

Sundance, a key launching pad for many of the year’s most anticipated independent films and documentaries, runs until January 28. (Andrew MARSZAL)


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