The Hollywood Reporter Critics Pick Cannes Film Festival Favorites – The Hollywood Reporter

A Chiara
(Directors’ Fortnight)
Jonas Carpignano completes his trilogy about a Calabrian town where African refugees, the Romani community and mafia exist side by side, for the first time focusing on a young female protagonist: a teen girl (Swamy Rotolo) absorbing shocking discoveries about her adored father. The result (winner of the top prize in Directors’ Fortnight) is a film of haunting intimacy. — DAVID ROONEY

After Yang
(Un Certain Regard)
Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith play a couple whose family harmony suffers when the android sibling they purchased for their adopted Chinese daughter breaks down in writer-director Kogonada’s exquisite, meditative sci-fi drama. The film’s stealthy emotional power creeps up on you. — D.R.

Ahed’s Knee
Co-winner of the third-place Jury Prize, Israeli auteur Nadav Lapid’s film is a cinematically bold auto-fiction about a director (Avshalom Pollak) fighting off personal, professional and political demons while on a trip to present one of his movies. The blistering cri de coeur represents a step toward something even more provocative than Lapid’s 2019 Golden Bear winner, Synonyms. — JORDAN MINTZER

(Cannes Premieres)
Perhaps the most ambitious work to date by Japanese animator Mamoru Hosoda alternates between a quiet little town where its painfully insecure heroine lives and an exciting, virtual universe where people take refuge in idealized avatars to escape the pain of the real world. The film is technically spectacular, but grounded in human emotion. — DEBORAH YOUNG

Bergman Island
A couple of screenwriters (Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth) navigate crises of love and career on the Swedish island made famous by Ingmar Bergman in Mia Hansen-Love’s breezy but profoundly personal film. Delicate, droll and imbued with a haunting, understated wistfulness, the movie wears its many layers lightly. — JON FROSCH

Clara Sola
(Directors’ Fortnight)
Shot in a remote corner of Costa Rica, Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s richly imagined debut revolves around the sexual awakening of a sheltered 40-year-old woman (Wendy Chinchilla Araya, in a feral turn). Tinged with magical realism and immersed in the sensory world, the film is a vivid reminder that even a matriarchy can be paternalistic. — SHERI LINDEN

Compartment No. 6
Finland’s Juho Kuosmanen follows his debut, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, with this melancholic Grand Prize-winning movie about a Finnish student (Seidi Haarla) sharing her sleeping car with an uncouth Russian miner (Yuriy Borisov) on a train trip through rural Russia. The storytelling has a generosity of spirit, tender though not sentimental. — D.R.

(Cannes Premieres)
Andrea Arnold (American Honey) returns with her first feature-length documentary, impressively chronicling several years in the life of a dairy cow in England. Working with cinematographer Magda Kowalczyk, Arnold plunges us straight into her subject’s point of view and never leaves it until the blunt, bitter end. — J.M.

The French Dispatch
Bill Murray plays the editor of an American magazine in France whose staff is preparing their final issue in Wes Anderson’s lovely valentine to literary journalism. Boasting handcrafted visual delights and charming turns from Benicio Del Toro, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright, it’s the film equivalent of a fine short story collection. — D.R.

Great Freedom
(Un Certain Regard)
Franz Rogowski (Transit) plays a gay German repeatedly arrested for “deviant practices” in the decades after World War II in Sebastian Meise’s intense, intricately structured drama. Chronicling a dark chapter in queer history, the film is also a contemplative study of the effects of incarceration and a tender, unconventional love story. — D.R.

A Hero
Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) returns to his native Iran with this astute, finely wrought drama — which shared the second-place Grand Prize — about a prisoner (Amir Jadidi) who becomes, through an unexpected chain of events, a local hero. Plunging us deep into the ills of Iranian society, it’s a complex tale of half-truths and lies that eat away at those who traffic in them. — D.Y.

Hit the Road
(Directors’ Fortnight)
Panah Panahi (son of Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi) makes his feature debut with this thrillingly inventive family road movie. Channeling the slow-burn realism of the Iranian New Wave, he also crafts a subtle and surprising story about a young man cutting ties with his family so he can find his own way. — J.M.

(Un Certain Regard)
Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guonason play Icelandic sheep farmers who seize on a startling discovery during lambing season as a way to heal their pain in Valdimar Jóhannsson’s wild, weird, horror-tinged first feature. It’s a stunningly assured film that should put the director on the map in ways not dissimilar to Robert Eggers’ The Witch. — D.R.

Lingui, The Sacred Bonds
Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s gorgeous, affecting drama centers on a single mother and her pregnant teen daughter as they seek an abortion in a country where it is technically legal but impossible to access. The filmmaker plumbs the depths of the bonds among women, gradually revealing how far they will go to protect themselves and one another. — LOVIA GYARKYE

Prayers for the Stolen
(Un Certain Regard)
In her sensitive and unsettling first narrative feature, documentarian Tatiana Huezo explores the devastating toll of Mexico’s narco wars through a coming-of-age drama centered on three rural girls. The film is keenly observed, with moments of astounding emotion delivered by the six first-time performers who play the trio of friends at two different ages. — S.L.

The Souvenir Part II
(Directors’ Fortnight)
This superb continuation of Joanna Hogg’s 2019 feature about a young woman drawn into a damaging relationship with a caddish charmer finds the British filmmaker at the height of her powers. In another performance of startling emotional candor, Honor Swinton Byrne plays the protagonist as she picks apart the wreckage of her tragic romance and reassembles the pieces. — D.R.

The Story of Film: A New Generation
(Special Screenings)
Having surveyed the first century of filmmaking with his The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Mark Cousins turns his restless and impassioned gaze to the 10 years since that 2011 series’ release — up to and including these past months of shuttered theaters. The inspired resulting doc sometimes has an unhurried flow, and sometimes rushes headlong around corners, where jaw-dropping surprises await.  — S.L.

In her brash, ballsy follow-up to cannibal drama Raw, French director Julia Ducournau spikes body-horror and female revenge thriller genre conventions with themes of queerness and gender-bending. It’s a punky, strangely affecting movie about two royally fucked-up human beings who, despite the odds, share a father-son-like bond. — BOYD VAN HOEIJ

(Cannes Premieres)
In their rewardingly unconventional doc, Leo Scott and Ting Poo capture the musings of subject Val Kilmer with unguarded intimacy, embracing his many facets: star, actor, cancer survivor, spiritual warrior, parent. To that list they add cinematographer, drawing from Kilmer’s extensive personal film and video archives to create a stirring portrait of resilience. — S.L.

The Velvet Underground
(Out of Competition)
Todd Haynes dives deep into the story of the influential band led by Lou Reed, making ingenious use of split-screen, experimental montage and densely layered images and sound over two fabulously entertaining hours. It’s a work that could almost have come from the same artistic explosion it celebrates. — D.R.

A version of this story first appeared in the July 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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