Cannes: THR Critics' Picks for the Best of the Fest (So Far)

6:30 AM 5/24/2017

by THR staff

A thriller with Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, a drama about French AIDS activists and new works from Todd Haynes, Noah Baumbach and Claire Denis were among the 12 favorites at the halfway mark.

  • '120 Beats Per Minute'

    France's Robin Campillo mines his past as a member of AIDS activist organization ACT UP in 1990s Paris in this overlong though ultimately quite moving drama of politics, passion and loss. As he proved in his screenplay for 2008 Cannes winner The Class, Campillo has an ear for the volatile currents of group discussion. But it's the gently blossoming romance between two of the ACT UP members — a newcomer (Arnaud Valois) and a radical (Nahuel Perez Biscayart) — that gives the film its human heartbeat. — David Rooney

    Read the full review here

  • 'Beauty and the Dogs'

    For her jump from documentary to fiction, Tunisian female director Kaouther Ben Hania opts for a true story — a woman (Mariam Al Ferjani) raped by local policemen has to decide whether to report the crime … to the local police — and a stylistic challenge, chronicling one night in nine chapters, each consisting of a single shot. It's a gamble that largely pays off in a film that's an emotional roller coaster and political tract rolled into one powerful package. — Boyd van Hoeij

    Read the full review here

  • 'Bright Sunshine In'

    Like a Judd Apatow thriller or a Michael Haneke kids' flick, the concept of a Claire Denis comedy sounds like a contradiction. But the French auteur's new film, starring a moody, moving Juliette Binoche as a 50-something artist and divorced mother who has a hard time getting what she wants, is funny, light on its feet and incredibly perceptive about people's complicated lives and relationships. — Jordan Mintzer

    Read the full review here

  • 'Ismael's Ghosts'

    Arnaud Desplechin's latest, in which a director (Mathieu Amalric) and his girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are visited by his former wife (Marion Cotillard) after her 20-year absence, feels like the French filmmaker's attempt to forge a (modestly scaled) magnum opus. It's overstuffed and not always fully comprehensible, but takes great, infectious pleasure in playing with all the writer-director's obsessions, themes and styles. The acting, particularly by Cotillard, is superb. — B.V.H.
    Read the full review here
  • 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer'

    The rich vein of psychological unease that ripples beneath the absurdist humor of Yorgos Lanthimos' work becomes a requiem of domestic horror in his masterfully realized fifth feature. A hypnotic tale of guilt and retribution, the film provides a riveting role for Colin Farrell after the director's English-language debut, The Lobster. Playing a Cincinnati cardiologist, the actor is flanked by a never-better Nicole Kidman as his wife and superb Irish newcomer Barry Keoghan as a mysterious teenager in a thriller that invites comparison to vintage Polanski. — D.R.

    Read the full review here

  • 'Loveless'

    With his devastating, finely layered new drama, director Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan) again demonstrates his remarkable gift for creating perfectly formed dramatic microcosms that illustrate the bred-in-the-bone pathologies of Russian society. Pivoting around a miserable middle-class family of three on the verge of complete dissolution, Loveless takes the tale of a child's disappearance and builds it into a rich, visually rigorous parable. — Leslie Felperin

    Read the full review here

  • 'The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)'

    Neuroses flow thicker than blood through the veins of the titular clan in Noah Baumbach's often stingingly amusing look at accounts being settled in a disorderly family. Working within the tradition of New York Jewish humor mined by the likes of Woody Allen, Baumbach's film for Netflix is more conventional than some of his best but benefits from sterling turns from a wonderful cast, most notably Dustin Hoffman as the patriarch and, yes, Adam Sandler as his under-loved son. — Todd McCarthy

    Read the full review here

  • 'The Rider'

    A small, acutely observed portrait of a few lives on the windswept badlands around Pine Ridge, South Dakota, this gem focuses on a young cowboy (Brady Jandreau), whose future as a rodeo rider is jeopardized by a head injury. Chloe Zhao's spare, intimate second feature beautifully captures the way some people stoically deal with the meager hands dealt them. — T.M.

    Read the full review here

  • 'The Square'

    Swedish writer-director Ruben Ostlund (Force Majeure) delivers a madly ambitious satire centering on a Swedish museum curator (Claes Bang), an exhibit, a stolen phone and an American journalist (Elisabeth Moss). Some cutting would improve the film's commercial prospects (it's more than two hours long), but this is a potent, disturbing work that provocatively explores the boundaries of political correctness, artistic liberty and free speech. — T.M.

    Read the full review here

  • 'The Venerable W'

    Those who believe all Buddhists respect their religion's principles of peace and tolerance should watch Barbet Schroeder's eye-opening chronicle of Burmese monk Ashin Wirathu's campaign of violence against his country's minority Muslim population. This scathing doc — featuring interviews with Wirathu and his critics as well as footage of beatings, burnings and killings — proves that the 75-year-old director remains a fearless explorer of the darkest facets of our society. — J.M.

    Read the full review here

  • 'Wonderstruck'

    Todd Haynes' latest is a spellbinding, seductively crafted retelling of author-illustrator Brian Selznick's 2011 fable following the adventures of two runaway deaf kids 50 years apart. Alive with the magic of pictures and the mysteries of silence, it's a grown-up film about children. Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams are confined to supporting roles, but young castmates Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmonds give the movie warmth and immediacy. — D.R.

    Read the full review here

  • 'The Workshop'

    French writer-director Laurent Cantet delivers a suspenseful thriller, based on a true story, about a writer's relationship with a student who troubles and intrigues her. Featuring sharp performances from Gallic star Marina Fois and newcomer Matthieu Lucci, the film shows Cantet returning to form with a hypnotic work that underscores issues facing his homeland. — J.M.

    Read the full review here