In any other year, Lily Gladstone’s remarkable layered performance in Fancy Dance might have dominated awards conversations. But this lean little drama about a Native American aunt on the run with her niece premiered in the same year as Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, itself anchored by an equally sublime performance by Gladstone. And the rest is award season history. But with the dust finally settled on the 96th Academy Awards, a niggling question remains. And it’s not whether Gladstone was nominated in the wrong category, but whether she should have earned two nods rather than just one.

The feature debut from Erica Tremblay, Fancy Dance has something of the outsider urgency of Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. Both films have holes in their hearts, with stories that orbit around the absence left by a missing loved one. Both follow tough, resourceful women as they navigate odds stacked against them and worlds that are quick to judge them. In Fancy Dance, Jax (Gladstone) is a hustler who has had numerous brushes with the law. When her sister disappears, Jax takes over the parenting duties for her 13-year-old niece Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson). But when child services intervene, placing Roki with her white grandparents, Jax makes an impulsive and fateful decision.

While Fancy Dance has a tendency to labour its points a little too emphatically, Gladstone and Deroy-Olson are both phenomenal; their connection, played out in shared glances and urgent wordless messages, is palpable, persuasive and vital.

In select UK and Irish cinemas and on Apple TV+ now

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