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3 Book to Movies to Watch at Sundance: Lady MacBeth, Call Me By Your Name, Mudbound

At the same time members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences are viewing and deciding over the very best of last year’s motion pictures, Sundance is screening some indie features which may well turn up on next years roster of awardees.

Scanning the Sundance Film Festival’s calendar, I notice a few of the most promising upcoming movies just so happen to be based on books. At this point there are no release dates outside of their Sundance screenings; I’ll keep you posted and add them to this years Movies Based on Books when I hear something.

Because it’s Sundance, the king of the indie film fests, the movies embody that independent spirit and challenge the way we see things. These three are no exception, a trio that includes period film with a woman who refuses to be contained by the period’s constraints, a gay drama about first love, and a film where friendship between a black & white man in the Jim Crow south defies the norms.

Lady Macbeth

Based not on Shakespeare’s Macbeth but on the novel written by Nicolai Leskov in 1865, Lady Macbeth is setting the independent cinema world on fire. One of the blurbs promoting the film reads “Imagine Alfred Hitchcock directing Wuthering Heights.’’ 

The low down on the movie

In this adaptation of Nikolai Leskov's novella "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk, a 19th century young bride is sold into marriage to a middle-aged man.

Lady Katherine, played by Florence Pugh, restricted and isolated, stuck in a loveless marriage to her mostly absent husband, has a hot n' heavy affair with a new servant. The affair awakens her desire to break free of the bonds of her stultifying marriage, no matter the cost. The ends, justifying the means, however murderous. 

Call Me By Your Name 

A romantic drama about a boy’s relationship with a friend of his father’s, the movie is based on the debut novel by Andre Aciman.  Billed as an erotic coming of age story, the novel received plenty of accolades for its luminous prose when it was published in 2007.

About the movie
The film has already been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, but except for the January 22 debut at Sundance, there’s not release date yet. Or trailer. Call Me by Your Name was written by James Ivory with the director, Luca Guadagnino. Timothée Chalamet stars as the 17 year old who pines for 24 year old Oliver, played by Armie Hammer with Michael Stuhlbarg as the boy’s father.


Two men, one black, one white, return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war. Based on Hillary Jordan’s prize-winning debut set in 1946, it’s the the men’s friendship that drives the story.

About the movie

Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell star as friends, Jamie McAllan and Ronsel Jackson. The cast includes Carey Mulligan as McAllan’s sister in law, Jason Clarke as his brother and Jonathan Banks as their Pappy. Mary J. Blige plays Jackson’s wife. Written and directed by Dee Reese, a rare female director.

I’m looking forward to all three of these getting their distribution deals in place and moving on to places where they can find their audience.

Personally, I’m most looking forward to Lady MacBeth. Which one looks good to you?