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Sundance 2024: Ponyboi introduces the world to future Oscar winner River Gallo

Sundance 2024: Ponyboi introduces the world to future Oscar winner River Gallo


Sundance 2024: Ponyboi introduces the world to future Oscar winner River Gallo
Coutesy of Sundance Institute
Ponyboi

The Sundance drama features brilliant performances from Gallo, Dylan O'Brien, Murray Bartlett, Indya Moore, and more!

Editor's note: this review of Esteban Arango and River Gallo’s Ponyboi, which recently premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, contains spoilers.

Get ready for River Gallo to be a name on everyone’s lips.

Ponyboi, directed by Esteban Arango and written by and starring Gallo, features one of the biggest breakout performances of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Following an intersex sex worker in New Jersey named Ponyboi (played brilliantly by Gallo), the movie takes place over a single Valentine’s Day night that starts out normally but quickly turns into an intense parade of drugs, chases, violence, and murder when some bad crystal meth provided by Ponyboi’s boss Vinny (a wonderfully vile Dylan O’Brien) kills a member of the mob.

The death, which happens while Ponyboi is servicing his client, leads to him taking a suitcase full of mob money and trying to make a run for it. Unfortunately, Vinny and the mob are hot on his tail, he needs to fill his hormone prescription, and his estranged father is sick.

Gallo is a huge star. I can easily see them winning awards on the indie circuit for this movie and hopefully, breaking through to the mainstream awards as well. This is one performance the Academy needs to pay attention to this year.

They have the effortless magnetism of a young Marissa Tomei and the ferocious vitality of 1970s Al Pacino. Every time they were on screen I couldn’t take my eyes away.

The rest of the cast is just as on fire. O’Brien is perfectly sleazy and vicious as the loserish wannabe gangster who owns the laundromat where Ponyboi works and doubles as a drug dealer/pimp. It’s a transformation from roles he’s known for, like in Teen Wolf, and shows the range that he’s capable of. Victoria Pedretti (The Haunting of Hill House) is wonderful as Ponyboi’s Jersey Girl BFF and Vinny’s pregnant girlfriend Angel.

The devastatingly handsome Murray Bartlett makes for the perfect mysterious older man who helps Ponyboi along the way like some angel sent straight from gay cowboy heaven. Indya Moore also dazzles as the owner of a gay bar who gives Ponyboi some much-needed encouragement on identity and hormones.

Sometimes the script can be a little below the talent of the ensemble cast, but it never holds the film back. Even when it dips into being a little “101” (we watch as Ponyboi puts on makeup and injects himself with hormones), it does so in a way that is still helpful to both the plot and to audiences who have probably never seen a movie with an intersex person in it before.

Ponyboi has a beautiful, beautiful ending that left me sobbing and smiling in the theater, so bring your tissues, and get ready to meet one of the biggest stars of tomorrow.

Ponyboi is playing at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Mey Rude

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.