Talia Ryder descends into several circles of American hell in The Sweet East, the debut directorial effort from Good Time cinematographer Sean Price Williams, which received its world premiere on May 18 in the Director’s Fortnight selection of the 2023 Festival de Cannes.
Noted by the fest’s Q&A moderator as a kind of feral Alice in Wonderland—a comparison Williams says wasn’t in his mind before, though “now it seems obvious” —⁠The Sweet East assaults the senses, fucks with the form, and is, crucially, packed full of Letterboxd besties including Ryder, Simon Rex and Ayo Edebiri. So, obviously we had to stay seated, and listen.
In the film, Lillian (played by Ryder with a captivating indifference) escapes a high school trip to Washington DC, disappearing into an episodic rabbit hole that takes her across the eastern US, a journey in which she encounters anarchists, neo-Nazis and the set of a period drama.
Williams wanted the film to include... everything. “It’s possible I’ll never get another chance to make a movie,” the director told the packed audience at the Théâtre Croisette, “so I tried to throw in a little bit of everything that I could think of. Once we weren’t stuck in a real world, then I think anything goes, and I wish more movies took advantage of that.”