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Fancy Dance Looks to Be Another Showcase for Lily Gladstone

Courtesy of Apple TV+

After this year’s award season, Lily Gladstone is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Her breakout role was in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women in 2016. Gladstone re-teamed with Reichardt in 2019’s First Cow (a personal favorite). They’re currently starring alongside Riley Keough in the Hulu miniseries, Under the Bridge, as a cop in a small Canadian town investigating the murder of a teenager. Gladstone’s upcoming feature, Fancy Dance, seems to have some thematic similarities with Under the Bridge. Both deal with an unsolved tragedy, a failing criminal justice system, and what it means to be an Indigenous woman moving about in the world.

Early on in the trailer, there comes a screen filled with laurels of film festivals where Fancy Dance has already played. The film premiered at Sundance in 2023 before also showing at heavy hitters like SXSW, BFI London, Outfest, and plenty more. It’s the sort of festival run that indie films dream of which certainly bodes well for the rest of us who haven’t been able to catch it yet.

Fancy Dance centers on Jax (Gladstone), a young woman desperately trying to keep her niece Roki’s (Isabel Deroy-Olson) life from falling apart. Roki’s mother (Jax’s sister) is missing. Because they live on a reservation, the cops are passing the case off to the feds who aren’t proving to be very helpful. Every day that Jax’s sister is missing, is another day closer to Roki becoming a ward of the state. Desperate to keep what’s left of her family together, Jax and Roki go on the run to try and find their loved one themselves.

There’s a warmth to Gladstone in all of their performances that just subtly draws you in, hanging on every word she says. Killers of the Flower Moon made her a household name and garnered her the first of likely many Oscar nominations. To me, their name attached to a project is the Golden Ticket. I don’t need to see a single image, hear the basic plot, or know anything at all. They is a master of the naturalistic performance and Fancy Dance looks to be yet another exhibition of Gladstone’s quiet, immense talents.

Jax and Roki stand with their arms crossed
Courtesy of Apple TV+

Fancy Dance marks the feature film debut of director/co-writer Erica Tremblay who broke onto the scene with her 2014 short film, In the Turn. The short documentary told the story of a transgender teenage girl who fell in love with the sport of roller derby. In Fancy Dance, it seems as though Tremblay is interested in exploring her queer and Seneca–Cayuga identities in the midst of this missing persons case.

Rounding out the rest of the cast is Isabel DeRoy-Olson as Roki in her feature film debut. It seems as though Fancy Dance was not the only production that thought DeRoy-Olson and Gladstone bear similarities because DeRoy-Olson is slated to portray the young version of Gladstone’s character in an upcoming episode of Under the Bridge. Shea Whigham plays Jax’s father who she seems to have a strained relationship with. Whigham has quite the illustrious career with roles in True Detective, Joker, First Man, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and plenty more. With a team like this, Fancy Dance is sure to be a hit for us indie film lovers.

Directed by Erica Tremblay, co-written with Miciana Alise, and starring Lily Gladstone, Isabel Deroy-Olson, Shea Whigham, Ryan Begay, Crystle Lightning,and Audrey Wasilewski, Fancy Dance will be in select theaters June 21 and streaming on Apple TV+ June 28.

Written by Tina Kakadelis

News Editor for Film Obsessive. Movie and pop culture writer. Seen a lot of movies, got a lot of opinions. Let's get Carey Mulligan her Oscar.

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