in ,

Sundance Film Festival Review: ‘Fairyland’ Is a Tender Look at Coming-of-Age, Living One’s Truth

Cody Fern, Scoot McNairy and Nessa Dougherty appear in Fairyland by Andrew William Durham, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Kalman Muller

In Fairyland, young Alysia (Nessa Dougherty; though later played as a teenager by Emilia Jones) moves from the Midwest to San Francisco with her father, Steve, following the death of her mother in a car accident. While out in San Francisco, Steve begins to openly date men, while Alysia is sent to private schools and grows to yearn to leave San Francisco.

Scoot McNairy portrays Steve Abbott with such gentle boldness and with teeming charisma, bringing the audience along on his triumphant and at times defeating story. Jones brings lots of charm, but also a plentiful amount of angst to the role of Alysia, roping us into her own life living with her father, and sometimes wishing that she didn’t. Geena Davis shines in a supporting role as the unapproving grandmother/mother-in-law.

Director Andrew Durham adapts the 2013 memoir of the real Alysia Abbott with care and with style. Shot to look like 70s-80s San Francisco, the film certainly has a very vivid pulse to it that really helps to bring audiences back into that time period.

Throughout the film, we see a family that, although unconventional in their time, feels very palpable to the world of today. We’re also given a very grounded portrayal of the joys and hardships of the LGBTQ+ experience at the time. Altogether, Fairyland proves to be a very engaging watch with performances and a story that will reel you in.

SCORE: ★★★★


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



Written by Miles Foster

Sundance Film Festival Interview: Marija Kavtaradze Discusses the Intimacy and Sexuality in ‘Slow’

Talking More ‘The Last of Us’ (tendrils and all) + ‘The Legend of Vox Machina’