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Sundance Review | FOUR SUNS | "It's Only Life After All"

indigo girls - Sundance.jpeg
Jeremy Cowart
A still from It’s Only Life After All by Alexandria Bombach, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jeremy Cowart

For his opening night Sundance mini-film review, Mark Harrington explains while some critics may be technically critical of the new Indigo Girls doc “It’s Only Life After All,” he has no such reservations and calls it an early audience award frontrunner. 

With raw directness, “It’s Only Life After All” shares the hearts and souls of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, the duo known as the Indigo Girls, as they transcend early friendships in a conservative Georgia community to collaborate for over forty years as popular folk-rock musicians and activists supporting indigenous, LGBTQ, and environmental rights.

Director Alexandria Bombach (“On Her Shoulders” 2018 Sundance Film Festival) employs a non-linear structure which zig zags between over 30 hours of blunt, contemporary interviews of the two stars with archival footage from a treasure trove of home-movies shot and archived by Amy. While Bombach would have benefited from a separate editor, the musicians’ personal candor, self-effacing humor, and on-camera vulnerability yield an affecting chronicling of an amazing partnership.

Imperative to the duo’s messaging is their unyielding partnership wasn’t driven by a desire for commercial success, but the synchronicity of their harmonies sourced literally a feeling of being held and forged critical self-esteem to survive the discrimination they’ve battled their entire lives. Despite contrary assumptions, the duo has never been romantically involved but readily acknowledge they are each at the center of the other. From that musical partnership grew new communities and social activism.

As for showcasing their music catalog, it’s quality over quantity. Powerful segments show each musician performing the same songs at different times in their careers providing emotional perspectives on content origin and meaning. The musicians’ deconstruction of a New York Times critic review and SNL skits provide some of the film’s most humorous and devastating moments. Taking to heart a common confession from their fans that “the Indigo Girls saved my life,” then this film will certainly save more.

“It’s Only Life After All” screening times may be found in the Sundance Program at: https://festival.sundance.org/program/film/638a1a50d406b2bcbbf2d474 but the film is not available for online streaming.

The film is rated rockin’ for robust harmonization’s, queer pride and kindness.

City attorney by day, Friday Film Review critic by night.