Starring: Sydney Sweeney, Josh Hamilton, and Marchánt Davis
Director: Tina Satter
I have personal thoughts about Reality Winner (Sydney Sweeney) and her crimes, and most coverage has gone in the opposite direction of what I think. However, I give director Tina Satter credit, because for most of the film’s 83-minute runtime, she doesn’t paint Winner as hero or villain, and her incredibly inventive approach creates a surreal pseudo-documentary that establishes a matter-of-fact point of view. Plus, Sweeney is absolutely remarkable, playing a character that evolves from innocent naiveté to terrified realization with aplomb, and the chemistry and tension built between her, Josh Hamilton, and Marchánt Davis is off the charts. This will net HBO some Emmys.
If you’re looking for a compelling and anxiety-inducing character study, then Reality is the film for you since it’s a self-contained thriller that is remarkably tense throughout. Not to mention, it’s just a gripping true story. That said, if it weren’t for Sydney Sweeney’s raw and remarkable performance, I don’t know if it would’ve worked as well as it does. She carries this tight-knit film on her shoulders, delivering one hell of a performance. Also, I would recommend that you familiarize yourself with the actual story before jumping into this so you can fully appreciate what is happening on screen.
Though it amounts to little more than a conversation piece, Reality is a thoroughly engaging, genuinely tense TV movie that would be one of the better episodes of television this year if it were part of its own series. Everyone aces their parts, but the two-handed back and forth between Sydney Sweeney and Josh Hamilton is what gives the narrative its juice. Given the confidential nature of some of the more specific information the film alludes to, the redaction of that information presents opportunities for some interesting filmmaking techniques, and director Tina Satter is more than up to the task.
This film was reviewed by Quentin as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Berlinale International Film Festival.