3 Movies Like Rotting in the Sun (2023)

Staff & contributors

Aptly for a film partly set in a fortune cookie factory, Fremont deals with luck — specifically, the other side of good luck: survivor’s guilt. Donya (played by real-life Afghan refugee Anaita Wali Zada) is a former translator for the US Army who fled her home city of Kabul on an emergency evacuation flight when the Taliban took over in 2021. Now living a safe, if drab, existence in the titular Californian town, insomniac Donya struggles to embrace her freedom, tormented by the knowledge that she lost some of her old colleagues to reprisal attacks and that her loved ones are still living under repressive rule in Afghanistan.

As Donya shuttles between her little apartment in Fremont, her job writing cryptic one-liners for a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, and appointments with her eccentric psychiatrist (Gregg Turkington), Fremont balances a moving study of her melancholy with deadpan humor. Despite its black-and-white cinematography and tight Academy ratio, this is no austere drama, but an endlessly warm and understated portrait of someone rediscovering themselves and all of life’s unexpected moments of connection, like chance romantic encounters and sudden tears at karaoke.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Anaita Wali Zada, Boots Riley, Gregg Turkington, Hilda Schmelling, Jeremy Allen White, Siddique Ahmed

Director: Babak Jalali

Rating: NR

, 2022

Leo and Remi are close. They play, eat, and sleep together, and in between those moments, they share every thought they have with each other, no matter how big or small. Theirs is a precious friendship, as pure and as intimate as can be, but all that changes when they begin middle school. Subject to heteronormative norms and preteen mockery, their friendship starts to crack as Leo and Remi’s different definitions of manhood emerge.

Subtle but evocative, quiet but deeply powerful, Close takes a closer look at boyhood and male friendships—how they’re lived, defined, and seen. Plenty of questions go unanswered in this film, but if you’re comfortable with simply empathizing with the characters rather than knowing every answer, then Close comes highly recommended.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahlaam Teghadouini, Cachou Kirsch, Eden Dambrine, Émilie Dequenne, Gustav De Waele, Hélène Theunissen, Igor van Dessel, Kevin Janssens, Léa Drucker, Léon Bataille, Marc Weiss, Serine Ayari

Director: Lukas Dhont

Rating: PG-13

The sooner you accept that Bottoms is not, in fact, rooted in reality in any way, the easier it should become to get on its wavelength for its uniquely absurd brand of comedy. This is ostensibly a satire, though it isn't totally clear what exactly the film is trying to comment on. And its loosely defined world makes it challenging to get emotionally invested in any of the characters' failures or victories. But it does—more than any comedy we'll probably get in a while—capture this feeling of high school being its own heightened, insulated world, where the class system of strict high school stereotypes clashes with the unchecked id and ego of teenagers who think they're more grown-up than they really are.

Director and co-writer Emma Seligman gives this movie a certain sheen that you rarely find in comedies this lowbrow (care of lush cinematography by Maria Rusche, and a bumping electronic score by Leo Birenberg and pop star Charli XCX). This contrast between polished exteriors and unapologetically raunchy content makes the jokes all the more startling—which are delivered by a cast clearly having great fun. Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri stick to their cringe-comedy skill set to great effect, while Ruby Cruz and Havana Rose Liu shine with deceptively tricky material, and Nicholas Galitzine gets to be a himbo for the ages.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Alyssa Matthews, Ayo Edebiri, Bruno Rose, Cameron Stout, Dagmara Domińczyk, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber, Krystal Alayne Chambers, Liz Elkins Newcomer, Marshawn Lynch, Miles Fowler, Nicholas Galitzine, Punkie Johnson, Rachel Sennott, Ruby Cruz, Ted Ferguson, Toby Nichols, Virginia Tucker, Wayne Pére, Zamani Wilder

Director: Emma Seligman

Rating: R