Best & Worst Films at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival

  • Publish Date: May 25, 2019
  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments

Change? Cannes can't

Berlinale 2019

The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival wrapped up on Sunday, and a jury led by filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu awarded the Palme d'Or (the festival's top award) to ... yet another man, bypassing the best-reviewed film of the festival, the women-led project Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

That said, the man in question—genre filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho—became the first-ever Korean director to collect the Palme d'Or when he was a surprise but unanimous winner over Pedro Almodóvar and Quentin Tarantino. (The latter's buzzy Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was unexpectedly shut out of all of the major awards.) Bong's thrilling winning entry, Parasite, plays a bit like an acidic (and maybe Tarantino-esque?) take on last year's Palme d'Or winner, Shoplifters, and was, at least, one of the festival's best-reviewed films this year. And there was one other bit of progress: The jury also recognized the competition's first-ever black female director with a (second-place) Grand Prix trophy.

Further below, find out what critics are saying about over three dozen of this year's notable Cannes debuts, including films that screened out of competition or as part of the parallel Directors' Fortnight and International Critics' Week programs. (Special screening Rocketman is excluded because it has now been reviewed outside of Cannes, though you can read all of that film's reviews here.) First, we have a recap of this year's award winners.

Major award winners

Palme d'Or (1st place):
Parasite (Gisaengchung)
Drama/Comedy | South Korea | Directed by Bong Joon-ho

movie still

2018 Shoplifters 93
2017 The Square 73
2016 I, Daniel Blake 77
2015 Dheepan 76
2014 Winter Sleep 87
Recent Palme d'Or winners

Bong Joon-ho's previous Cannes entry, 2017's Okja, was partially responsible for the festival's current ban on Netflix (and other streaming-first) films. But his latest feature is taking a more conventional approach, at least in terms of distribution, though maybe not in terms of story development. As with Tarantino's entry (below), Bong asked critics not to spoil Parasite's story twists, so let's just say the Korean-language film involves two families of vastly different fortunes, and in particular one young man from a struggling family who begins working as a tutor for a member of a wealthy one. It starts out a bit like last year's Palme d'Or winner Shoplifters but detours into something funnier, angrier, and much bloodier.

Spoiler alert: It's terrific. It's "a stunning return to form" for Bong says The Wrap's Ben Croll. CineVue's John Bleasdale praises the "acerbic brilliance" of a film that serves as "a masterful dissection of social inequality and the psychology of money." Variety's Jessica Kiang similarly calls the film "brilliant" and "caustic," while also finding it "the most formally polished work we’ve seen from Bong." In Screen, Jonathan Romney thinks Parasite "a malign delight from start to finish, with a Machiavellian sense of mischief and a cinematic brio that shows Bong revelling in his Hitchcockian control of somewhat Buñuelian material." Like several critics, The Telegraph's Robbie Collin hails Bong's "razor-sharp attunement to the physical space in which it’s located," which pays off handsomely in later moments. At the Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang calls Parasite "the angriest, most confrontational thing I’ve seen in the competition," and suggests it would make "a terrific double bill with Jordan Peele’s 'Us'." The only critics so far who are a bit restrained in their approval are The Playlist's Bradley Warren, who feels Parasite "falls slightly short of Bong’s greatest work," and THR's Stephen Dalton, who warns of some cumbersome plotting and "heavy-handed" social-commentary—and thinks it could lose "a good 15 minutes" of its runtime.

Grand Prix (2nd place):
Atlantics (Atlantique)
Drama | France/Senegal/Belgium | Directed by Mati Diop

movie still

2018 BlacKkKlansman 83
2017 BPM (Beats Per Minute) 84
2016 It’s Only the End of the World 48
2015 Son of Saul 89
2014 The Wonders 76
Recent Grand Prix winners

In the 72 years of Cannes, there had never been a film in competition directed by a black woman—until the screening of this debut feature from French actor turned director Mati Diop last week, which received a warm reception from the Cannes audience and ultimately took home the competition's penultimate prize. (Still, her drama is one of just four woman-directed films in competition this year.) Set in the coastal city of Dakar, Senegal, the at times realistic, at times supernatural film follows 17-year-old Ada, who falls in love with construction worker Souleiman but is forced to marry another man by her family, only for her wedding to be attacked by an arsonist. In a rave review in The Telegraph, Tim Robey has nothing but praise for the director: "Slipping in and out of modes with a magician’s confidence, Diop turns this into a detective story, too, and a ghost story, and then both at once, weaving melodic lines around a richer array of characters than you first expect." Similarly, Screen's Allan Hunter writes, "Constantly intriguing, Atlantics successfully blends its disparate elements of love story, ghost story and female empowerment into a distinctive, involving drama."

Some critics note some rough edges, however. While IndieWire's Eric Kohn thinks Atlantics "doesn’t always fit together from a narrative perspective," he thinks "it musters such an absorbing vision of an alienated seaside life that not everything needs to add up for the atmosphere to take hold." THR's Leslie Felperin finds it "exquisitely shot" but stretched a bit too thin, and notes that some "in-the-rough performances" from a partially amateur cast won't go over well with every viewer. And Variety's Jay Weissberg sees a "romantic and melancholy film," that is frustrated—though not completely hampered—by some "flawed narrative choices."

Netflix acquired Atlantics on the closing day of the festival and will likely stream it later this year.

Jury Prize (3rd place) (tie between two films):
Bacurau
Drama/Sci-fi | Brazil/France | Directed by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho

movie still

2018 Capernaum 75
2017 Loveless 86
2016 American Honey 79
2015 The Lobster 81
2014 (tie) Goodbye to Language 75
  (tie) Mommy 74
Recent Jury Prize winners

Described as a "disturbing ultraviolent freakout” and an "excellent freakout” by The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw and Manohla Dargis of The New York Times, respectively, the latest from Neighboring Sounds and Aquarius director Kleber Mendonça Filho captures the systematic destruction of the fictional Brazilian town of the title, and the fight its citizens put up for their survival. Sharing directorial credit with Juliano Dornelles, the production designer on his previous features, Mendonça Filho has created a film whose “combination of satire and savagery is pretty fierce and intriguingly unique,” according to Tim Robey of The Telegraph. In his review for The Playlist, Bradley Warren agrees the film is a “unique and well-executed blend of genres,” but Variety's Peter Debruge argues that it’s the “rare movie that probably would have been better if it had been dumber, or at least less ambitious,” claiming it’s a “visually impressive but unevenly paced thriller that feels as if it’s meant to be analyzed more than enjoyed, and for which footnotes might actually have done more good than subtitles.”

Jury Prize (3rd place) (tie between two films):
Les Misérables
Drama | France | Directed by Ladj Ly

movie still

Expanding his award-winning short film (which was not an adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel, though it does share a location and sentiment), director Ladj Ly has produced a “gripping and grounded procedural that probes the tensions between Paris’ anti-crime police and the poor Muslim population they torment and suppress,” according to IndieWire's David Ehrlich. THR's Jordan Mintzer believes it’s an “impressive if somewhat unruly debut” that is “heavy-handed and predictable in spots, yet engrossing and provocative in others.” Also slightly split on the film, which tells its story from the perspective of three cops, is A.A. Dowd of the A.V. Club, who admires the “one-day-in-David-Ayer-hell energy of the movie,” but finds it “bombastic and contrived," adding, "It’s the police drama as police baton.” Landing on the positive side, Justin Chang of the L.A. Times claims “Ly dramatizes the scenes of street warfare with visceral force,” resulting in a “crackling police thriller” and a “gripping feature debut for the French director.” Amazon acquired the film at the festival after outbidding Netflix, which means it should wind up in theaters at some point.

Winner, Un Certain Regard section:
The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão
Drama | Brazil/Germany | Directed by Karim Ainouz

movie still

The winner of the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival is an adaptation of Martha Batalha's 2015 novel about the cruel separation of sisters Euridice and Guida in 1950s Rio de Janeiro. Karim Aïnouz (Futuro Beach, Madame Satã) has directed a “stirring, heart-wrenching period film” that takes its source material and “transforms it utterly, abandoning its comic slant for a much darker approach,” according to Lee Marshall of Screen Daily. In his Cannes recap for RogerEbert.com, Ben Kenigsberg finds “much to admire … particularly both women's performances and the delicate shading of Hélène Louvart's cinematography,” but he cautions that the film has a “seriously deflating finale for a movie that aspires to the richness of myth.” On the other hand, THR's David Rooney believes “Ainouz's expert modulation of tone ensures that the long film keeps surprising us with new turns,” resulting in a “haunting drama that quietly celebrates the resilience of women even as they endure beaten-down existences.”

More awards

Other major award winners at this year's festival include:

  • Best director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, Young Ahmed
  • Caméra d’Or * (for best first feature): César Diaz, Nuestras Madres
  • Best screenplay: Céline Sciamma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  • Best actor: Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
  • Best actress: Emily Beecham, Little Joe

* awarded by a different jury led by Rithy Panh; films screening in any of the various sections are eligible

Un Certain Regard

In addition to giving its top prize to The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao (above), the Nadine Labaki-led jury awarded its second-place Jury Prize to Oliver Laxe's The Fire Will Come and named Kantemir Balagov the section's top director for Beanpole.

Directors' Fortnight

Awards in this parallel section are handed out by various sponsors rather than directly by the festival. Alice and the Mayor, the second feature from Nicolas Pariser, collected the top award from the Europa Cinemas Network as the best European film, while the SACD Prize for best French-language film went to Rebecca Zlotowski's An Easy Girl. (Both films are detailed below, as is the Fortnight's buzziest film, The Lighthouse, and several other titles.)

Critics' Week and others

Another parallel competition (dedicated to first- and second-time filmmakers), Critics' Week issued its biggest honor to Jérémy Clapin’s I Lost My Body, which became the first ever animated film to win that competition. (It was also just acquired by Netflix, so you'll get a chance to see it in the near future.) The Claire Denis-led jury for the Cinéfondation competition for student films awarded its top prize to Mano A Mano by Louise Courvoisier (a student at France's CinéFabrique). And the quirky "Palm Dog" award, given annually to the best canine performance in a Cannes film, went to Brandy the pit bull of Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

More festival highlights

Beanpole
Drama | Russia | Directed by Kantemir Balagov

movie still

Russian director Kantemir Balagov picked up best director honors in the Un Certain Regard section for his latest film, which is set in post-World War II Leningrad. There, young women Iya and Masha (newcomers Viktoria Mironshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina in highly praised performances) struggle to rebuild their lives while dealing with the physical and psychological scars of war. Screen Daily's Jonathan Romney finds those wounds to be “vividly, sometimes painfully evoked” despite some “dramatic contrivance and occasional emotional overstatement.” But in his review for THR, Todd McCarthy praises Balagov’s “blossoming virtuosity in his bold staging and long-take preferences, even if what he is focusing upon usually ranges from the uncomfortable to the ghastly.” And Variety's Jessica Kiang believes the film “marks the undeniable arrival of Kantemir Balagov as a major talent.”

The Climb
Drama/Comedy | USA | Directed by Michael Angelo Covino

movie still

Michael Angelo Covino's debut feature, co-written with his friend and co-star Kyle Marvin, is an expansion of his 2018 short of the same name. It’s an ambitious and formally daring buddy comedy made up of six vignettes that chronicle a rocky friendship introduced to audiences on a bike ride in France, where Mike admits to sleeping with Kyle’s fiancée. IndieWire's Eric Kohn deems it a “brilliant reinvention of the buddy comedy,” and Jonathan Romney of Screen Daily finds it “witty, tart and executed with virtuoso skill.” Variety's Guy Lodge also has praise for a “smart, moving anatomy of a toxic friendship” and the film's “careful formal detailing,” as well as its rewarding dialogue and performances.

The Lighthouse
Drama/Fantasy/Horror | USA/Canada | Directed by Robert Eggers

movie still

One of the best reviewed films in Cannes didn’t play in the main festival, but at the Director’s Fortnight parallel competition. Robert Eggers’ black-and-white follow-up to The Witch chronicles the downward spiral of two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in unanimously praised performances). The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw finds it “explosively scary and captivatingly beautiful,” while John Bleasdale of CineVue stresses that it’s “hard to overstate just how accomplished this film is in every department.” THR's David Rooney admits that “as with its predecessor, the new film is stronger on heady atmosphere and slow-building dread than on the narrative clarity of its payoff,” but is nonetheless a “transfixing spectacle.” Finally, IndieWire's Eric Kohn believes it’s a “stunning showcase for Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe to unleash their wildest extremes” and “the best movie about bad roommates ever made.” A24 will release the film later this year, though there's no date yet.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Watch trailer
Drama/Comedy/Thriller | USA | Directed by Quentin Tarantino

movie still

While most critics honored Quentin Tarantino’s request not to spoil the last act of what is being billed as his ninth film (if you count Kill Bill as one movie), it was the preceding two-plus hours that critics preferred. Taking place over three days in 1969 Los Angeles and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as aging TV star Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, Rick’s longtime stunt double, it’s a hangout movie and a moving tribute to the director’s obsessions. Whether the last act works will be much debated upon its release on July 26—and the director is reportedly considering re-editing the film before it reaches theaters, which could also impact critics' opinions—but until then, Tarantino can bask in the glow of some excellent early reviews even if he missed out on official honors.

Time's Stephanie Zacharek claims it’s “Tarantino’s most affectionate movie since Jackie Brown (1997), the picture that remains—the idolatry surrounding Pulp Fiction notwithstanding—his masterpiece.” While John Bleasdale of CineVue believes this “bold, beautiful and brutal” film is “Tarantino’s best film since Kill Bill, perhaps even since Pulp Fiction.” In her recap for The New York Times, Manohla Dargis argues that one of the keys to the film’s success is that Tarantino “loves this world so much, and that adoration suffuses every exchange, cinematic allusion and narrative turn.” And Screen Daily's Fionnuala Halligan expresses similar sentiments: “Because it replays cinematic styles and revisits the long-gone world of the small screen, there might be a tendency to dismiss Once Opon A Time….in Hollywood as pastiche. But this is more than that: it’s love."

Pain & Glory (Dolor y gloria)
Drama | Spain | Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

movie still

The latest Cannes entry from the esteemed Spanish filmmaker stars Antonio Banderas as a fading film director (and stand-in for Almodóvar) who reflects back on his life during a time of crisis. It's "yet another masterwork" from Almodóvar, according to The Playlist's Bradley Warren, while IndieWire's Eric Kohn labels it "the filmmaker’s best and most personal movie in years" and Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times calls it a "late-career triumph." Variety's Peter Debruge sees a newfound subtlety from the director (well, relatively speaking), resulting in a "mature work" that adopts "honesty over theatrics." Several critics, including The Film Stage's Ed Frankl, think that Banderas delivers "perhaps his greatest performance." But while THR's Jonathan Holland finds aspects of the "exquisitely crafted" film to admire, he thinks that the film finds the director running out of things to say, and thus is "unlikely to be remembered with any great fondness by all but Almodovar diehards." In Screen, Wendy Ide cautions of a "patchwork" and "fragmented" story. And The Telegraph's Tim Robey concludes, "The film often rings hollow." Still, Pain and Glory was one of the buzziest films at this year's Cannes, and it will head to North American theaters (possibly with some Oscar ambitions) on October 4th.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Drama | France | Directed by Céline Sciamma

movie still

For her fourth directorial effort—and first in the main competition at Cannes—Céline Sciamma (Girlhood) enlists an all-professional (and almost all-female) cast for the first time. Set in 18th century France but not directly based on a true story, Portrait follows artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant), who is hired to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Sciamma's Water Lilies star Adèle Haenel, who also appears in Deerskin, below), a reluctant bride who recently left the convent, without her knowledge. The two do meet, however, and their relationship soon grows intimate. Critics are certainly drawn in by Sciamma's Portrait, making it the best-reviewed Cannes entry this year, though the Cannes jury liked it only enough to award its screenplay. A.V. Club film editor A.A. Dowd speaks for many critics when he says it looks like "the best film of the competition and the fest at large." In The Wrap, Ben Croll praises a "visually ravishing" and "piercingly intelligent" film, while IndieWire's Eric Kohn merely calls it "as perfect a film as any to have premiered this year." The Playlist's Caroline Tsai notes "the kind of dialogue that simmers long after it is spoken." And in a truly glowing review in The Hollywood Reporter, Leslie Felperin stresses that it is Sciamma herself who is "on fire," adding that the filmmaker is "practically throwing off sparks and hot coals as she enters a confident, bigger-risk-taking phase of her career," though she also reserves praise for the "combustible, practically fissile chemistry" of the two leads.

Neon will release the film in theaters this fall, and Portrait will eventually make its way to Hulu as well (though critics recommend seeing it on a big screen if you get an opportunity to do so).

Sorry We Missed You
Drama | UK/France/Belgium | Directed by Ken Loach

movie still

Two-time Palme d'Or winner Ken Loach returned to Cannes for the first time since 2016 (when he won for I, Daniel Blake) with another timely, socially minded drama (again from screenwriter Paul Laverty) about a working-class English family that is struggling with debt and energy-sucking, unrewarding jobs (including one as a delivery driver in the gig economy). Is it another success? Yes, for many. It's "essential viewing," according to The Playlist's Bradley Warren. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw likes it better than Daniel Blake and writes, "I was hit in the solar plexus by this movie, wiped out by the simple honesty and integrity of the performances." Screen's Lee Marshall declares it to be "one of Loach's very best films," and Variety's Owen Gleiberman calls it "another intimate and powerful drama" from a 82-year-old director who is operating with "supreme confidence and flow."

But The Wrap's Steve Pond thinks it overly familiar territory for Loach and warns, "[I]t is not a subtle film, and its bluntness is occasionally potent but just as often wearying." IndieWire's Eric Kohn also notes a lack of subtlety (and, at times, believability) but thinks "Loach is a confident filmmaker whose keen visual sense hasn’t faded in the slightest." And for A.V. Club critic A.A. Dowd, the film starts well, but then "piles on so relentlessly that its genuine poignancy begins to crumble into self-parody."

Other notable films (neither great nor terrible)

Alice and the Mayor
Drama/Comedy | France | Directed by Nicolas Pariser

movie still

Collecting the top award for best European film in the Directors' Fortnight parallel section (despite somewhat unenthusiastic reviews), writer-director Nicolas Pariser’s film stars Anais Demoustier (Bird People) as Alice, a philosopher brought onto the team of Paul Theraneau (Fabrice Luchini), the mayor of Lyon, in hopes of giving the 30-year politician some new ideas. Variety's Jay Weissberg believes Luchini and Demoustier are the main pleasures in a film “so enamored by its self-perception of cleverness that even policy wonks will find it hard to muster enthusiasm.” But in her review for Screen Daily, Lisa Nesselson finds the film “talky in the best possible way,” resulting in a “classy but accessible piece of entertainment” that is a “lively, funny and touching exploration of the way we live now through the filter of two generations.”

A Brother's Love (La femme de mon frère)
Drama | Canada | Directed by Monia Chokri

movie still

Writer-director Monia Chokri’s debut feature, the opening film of the Un Certain Regard section of the festival, follows 35-year-old Sophia as she seeks shelter from adulthood in her close relationship with her brother, Karim. But when Karim falls in love, Sophia must resume her search for purpose on her own, resulting in a “sweet, funny and somewhat melancholy feature,” according to THR's Boyd van Hoeij, who believes Chokri is a “directorial talent to watch.” In her review for Variety, Jessica Kiang agrees that Chokri, an actress known for her roles in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats and Laurence Anyways, has a bright future, noting that this “kind of joy in filmmaking can’t be faked,” and the “absence of polish is part of the film’s charm.” Slightly less enthusiastic, Screen Daily's Lisa Nesselson notes, ”How much a viewer will enjoy the convincingly cringe-making portrait on display here will depend on whether one feels empathy for Sophia’s inability-come-reluctance to access the ramp to adulthood or would prefer to reach into the screen and shake her.”

Bull
Drama | USA | Directed by Annie Silverstein

movie still

Annie Silverstein's debut feature (which follows her 2014 Cinéfondation-winning short "Skunk") is set in a rural Houston neighborhood, where it traces the unlikely bond formed between a headstrong 14-year-old white girl (newcomer Amber Harvard) from a broken home and her neighbor (and new employer), an aging black bullfighter (Mudbound's Rob Morgan). Critics generally like the result. THR's Jon Frosch deems it "a modest, plaintively lovely debut" that smartly refrains from sentimentality and feels influenced by the work of Debra Granik and Chloe Zhao (if not yet up to their level). IndieWire's Eric Kohn also references the latter's recent gem The Rider, but suggests, "Compared to Zhao’s ethereal achievement, 'Bull' is more of an understated footnote that applies the same tropes to the framework of a less sophisticated narrative " And Screen's Tim Grierson calls Bull "a slow-burn drama with familiar contours but a sure sense of place and a great deal of restrained empathy." But Variety's Peter Debruge labels the film "a disappointment" that feels "stagnant for long stretches" and fails to show any growth from the director's earlier short. He also warns of "turbulent" photography that "looks as if someone were tickling the camera operator the whole time."

Deerskin (Le Daim)
Comedy | France | Directed by Quentin Dupieux

movie still

The official plot synopsis reads, "Georges, 44 years old, and his jacket, 100% deerskin, have a plan." And so goes the latest oddball comedy from French musician/director Quentin Dupieux (Wrong, Rubber), which debuted in the independently run "Directors' Fortnight" parallel competition. IndieWire's Eric Kohn further describes Dupieux's new film as "a minimalist curiosity ... with one appealing hook: Jean Dujardin, hilarious and unhinged, as a psychopath so infatuated with his new jacket that he decides it should be the only one in the world." He gives the film a "B–," adding that however great that performance is, the premise "would have worked better as a short." THR's Boyd van Hoeij has that exact same thought, and overall finds the film "slight but quite amusing." While Screen's Allan Hunter also uses that "slight" descriptor, he seems a bit more positive overall, concluding, "However, there are enough sparks of originality and comic invention throughout to capture those in search of something winningly offbeat and unexpected." RogerEbert.com's Ben Kenigsberg declares, "It's a movie with one joke, but it's a good joke." And The Playlist's Bradley Warren praises the film as a "hilarious and twisted festival amuse-bouche with tremendous cult appeal."

Diego Maradona
Documentary/Sports | UK | Directed by Asif Kapadia

movie still

Making its debut out of competition at Cannes, Diego Maradona is a two-hour-plus profile of the legendary but troubled Argentine soccer star from Asif Kapadia, who previously directed well-received documentaries about Amy Winehouse (Amy) and Formula One driver Ayrton Senna (Senna). The documentary, which will air on HBO on September 24, was made with Maradona's full participation and combines preexisting television footage with never-before-seen tapes from Maradona's private archive. It's "a must-see for soccer fans," according to The Playlist's Bradley Warren. Screen's Fionnuala Halligan came into the film with high expectations and is pleased to report that the director "does not disappoint," calling Maradona "more satisfying than Kapadia's previous work." Indeed, IndieWire's Eric Kohn says, "You couldn’t ask for a better match between filmmaker and subject." But Variety's Owen Gleiberman thinks Kapadia "leaves out too much." And THR's Stephen Dalton notes "a few structural problems that did not bedevil Senna or Amy," and thinks that the result is a "lesser film" that "feels more cautious and compromised" because of its subject's involvement.

An Easy Girl (Une fille facile)
Drama/Comedy | France | Directed by Rebecca Zlotowski

movie still

Winner of the SACD Prize for best French-language film in the Directors' Fortnight parallel section, An Easy Girl seems to mark a comeback for French director Rebecca Zlotowski after her disappointing 2017 effort Planetarium. Her new film is a coming-of-age tale that follows a 16-year-old new high school graduate (Mina Farid) who heads out on a summer trip in the South of France with her older, more experienced cousin (model Zahia Dehar) on a yacht with a wealthy collector (Nuno Lopes). The result is "slight at times" but "eminently watchable," according to an uncredited review in Screen. THR's Jon Frosch praises Zlotowski's improved storytelling and thinks it is "by far her best film, brisk, frisky and atmospheric, but with an emotional undertow — a luminous wisdom and wistfulness that catch you off guard." And in The Film Stage, Ed Frankl sees echoes of Luca Guadagnino and Éric Rohmer in "a summer popsicle of a movie," though he does complain about "Dehar's wooden acting."

Family Romance LLC
Drama | USA | Directed by Werner Herzog

movie still

Partially funded by Werner Herzog's paycheck for appearing in the upcoming Star Wars television series The Mandalorian, the latest from the prolific director is a strange hybrid. Herzog cast Ishii Yuchii, the real-life founder of a Japanese company called Family Romance LLC, to play himself in scenarios that Herzog has scripted. What is Family Romance LLC, you may ask? The company hires out actors to play friends, family members, or other surrogate figures in their clients’ lives. It’s a “strange, faintly frustrating but diverting film,” according to Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian. In IndieWire, Eric Kohn dubs it Herzog’s “strangest movie of the decade,” while TheWrap's Steve Pond goes as far as calling it his “most satisfying non-documentary feature in a decade.” However, in his review for Screen Daily, Allan Hunter wonders if a scripted approach was the correct choice: “You suspect the material might have more readily lent itself to a Herzog documentary. Here you rather miss his lugubrious narration, wry asides, and ability to entertain us with another illustration of the old maxim that there is nothing stranger than people.”

First Love (Hatsukoi)
Drama/Comedy/Thriller | Japan/UK | Directed by Takashi Miike

movie still

Quentin Tarantino's new film wasn't the only Tarantino-esque bit of pulp fiction to debut at this year's festival. Screening in the Directors' Fortnight section, the latest zippy feature from prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike is a darkly comedic mob drama set in Tokyo that traces one day in the life of a troubled young boxer who meets the love of his life—though she happens to be caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme that involves a corrupt cop and various organized crime groups, resulting in what amounts to a night-long chase. Alternatingly "violent, hilarious, and violently hilarious," First Love is "frequently sublime" and "full of life," according to IndieWire's David Ehrlich, even if it takes "a few turns too many." Screen's Allan Hunter sees "an exhilarating cocktail of bloodbath violence and tar-black humour" tht is "relentlessly, outrageously entertaining." And though the film "offers little thematically or stylistically novel" that fans of the director haven't seen before, First Love is "as effortlessly enjoyable as ever, accentuating the director's lighter comic leanings over his bloodthirsty side," writes THR's Stephen Dalton. The Film Stage's Rory O'Connor agrees, calling it "Miike at his most accessible."

A Hidden Life
Drama | USA/Germany | Directed by Terrence Malick

movie still

Seen as a return to form by some reviewers and a continuation of poor form by others, the latest from Terrence Malick tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II. Not impressed by Malick’s return to more narratively grounded storytelling, THR's Todd McCarthy admits “there can be no doubt whose signature it bears. But even with potentially deeper material, Malick is still making all the same moves, while neither varying them or amplifying what might lie beneath. His process consists of beautifying, flattening and simplifying.” In her review for Time, Stephanie Zacharek agrees with McCarthy, concluding, “It tells us nothing new about evil or our need to take a stand against it; it barely makes us feel what it’s like to stand against evil. All it has to offer is soft-focus piousness. Its ethical purity is inert, a dead butterfly in a jar.”

In praise of the film, Martyn Conterio writes for CineVue, “Call it a return to a conventional narrative, if you want to, this is still 100% Malick. Not a retreat or a return to the old days, but a definite continuation. Awe-inspiring, triumphant and as majestic as cinema can possibly get.” In his L.A. Times recap, Justin Chang believes Malick’s “extraordinarily beautiful and wrenching new movie” to be “both an intense portrait of Christian devotion in practice and a damning study in how religious institutions, among others, can align themselves with evil.” Echoing those sentiments, Variety's Peter Debruge claims this “refulgent return to form from one of cinema’s vital auteurs” finds Malick back in “the realm of more traditional, linear narrative,” where he “draws a critical distinction between faith and religion, calling out the failing of the latter — a human institution that’s as fallible and corruptible as any individual.”

Who was most impressed by A Hidden Life? Fox Searchlight. The distributor shelled out a reported $12-$14 million early this week to win a bidding war for the film's rights. A fall theatrical release is likely.

It Must Be Heaven
Comedy | France/Germany/Canada/Turkey | Directed by Elia Suleiman

movie still

The first feature in a decade from Palestinian director Elia Suleiman (who won the Jury Prize in 2002 for Divine Intervention) is an episodic comedy starring the filmmaker as a mostly silent version of himself who escapes Palestine for Paris (and then New York) but finds that he can't ever really shed his old life. It sounds like fans of Suleiman will not be disappointed. The Wrap's Ben Croll calls it a "gentle and winning" film that explores "nationality and identity" with "deadpan humor and poker-faced comic invention," while Variety's Jay Weissberg deems it "whimsical and wistful." In IndieWire, Eric Kohn finds Suleiman's comedy "rich with feeling, even as it enters a self-reflexive zone that sometimes distracts from the legitimate concerns at its core." Screen's Lee Marshall thinks that some of the film's vignettes are "laugh-out-loud funny" but others are "little more than space-fillers." Suleiman received a special mention from the Cannes jury for Heaven, which isn't exactly an award per se, but it's something.

Lux Aeterna
Drama (short) | France | Directed by Gaspar Noé

movie still

Here's one that may have been saved by its brevity, even if it went longer than planned. Originally intended to be a 15-minute commercial for Yves Saint Laurent, this 50-minute, mockumentary-style film from the provocative and divisive director of Climax and Love stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Béatrice Dalle as versions of themselves—first, as they have a split-screen discussion about the art of filmmaking, and then as they proceed to make a film about witchcraft that quickly turns into a disaster. RogerEbert.com's Ben Kenigsberg labels the result a "larky goof." "Is it enjoyable to watch? Hell no," admits The Wrap's Steve Pond, but he finds himself won over nevertheless by a film that "is kind of mesmerizing in its perverse single-mindedness." In The Playlist, Caroline Tsai seems similarly torn, warning of an "unwatchable" ending and Noé's "deeply alienating" filmmaking style, but also finding "an undefinably admirable quality to the extremity of his showmanship." IndieWire's Eric Kohn thinks the film "functions as a savvy indictment of the commercial industry" and "as a minor work, it provides an enjoyable snippet of rambunctious formalism that puts Noé in a category of his own." And Ioncinema's Nicholas Bell calls it "another unexpectedly fascinating sensory experience from Noé." But The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw is not impressed by an "insufficiently diverting" film that "shows Noé reverting to the self-parodic silliness that Climax had taken him past."

Port Authority
Drama | USA/France | Directed by Danielle Lessovitz

movie still

Like FX's Pose and the documentary Paris Is Burning, this Martin Scorsese-produced debut feature from writer-director Danielle Lessovitz is set in New York's drag ball scene. The film traces the romance between a young drifter named Paul (Dunkirk's Fionn Whitehead) and dancer Wye (transgender model Leyna Bloom), who is active in the "kiki" ballroom scene but whom Paul doesn't realize to be trans—at first. (Many critics make the inevitable Crying Game comparison.) IndieWire's Eric Kohn calls Port Authority a "proficient" and "quietly progressive" debut with "a lot of familiar [story] beats." The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw longs for "more extended dance sequences" but nevertheless finds the film "heartfelt and unexpected." Variety's Peter Debruge thinks the film a bit more problematic—including the "nausea-inducing" handheld camerawork and the fact that "it’s hard to believe anyone could be as naive as Paul"—but he admires both lead performances and Lessovitz's ability to capture "the spirit and energy of the vibrant ball world in a totally fresh way." But The Wrap's Steve Pond thinks the balls "murky" and "underlit" rather than vibrant, and Bloom "more of a presence than an actress at this point," though he finds the film as a whole "rough but vital."

The Whistlers (La Gomera)
Comedy | Romania/France/Germany | Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu

movie still

The latest from Corneliu Porumboiu is a slight change of pace for the director of 12:08 East of Bucharest, Police, Adjective, and The Treasure. This noir-tinged but comedic thriller takes place on the Canary Islands, where a corrupt police officer must learn a secret mafia whistling language to help get a mobster out of jail. It’s “no minimalist slice of realism, but an oversized, deliciously twisted ride that runs on an endless supply of black humor and a sizeable body count,” according to Steve Pond of TheWrap. And the Romanian director’s latest is an “elegant and stylishly crafted piece of entertainment,” in the opinion of The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. But to Lee Marshall of Screen Daily, the film “feels a little woolly and unfocused,” where “only in certain scenes do story and ideas really mesh.”

The Wild Goose Lake
Drama | China | Directed by Yinan Diao

movie still

After winning the Golden Bear at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival for Black Coal, Thin Ice, writer-director Yinan Diao brought his first film to the main competition at Cannes. According to IndieWire's David Ehrlich, it’s an “invigorating, poetic, and discretely brilliant Chinese noir that adds up to less than the sum of its parts,” and feels like a “mild comedown” from his Berlinale winner. Slightly more enthusiastic, CineVue's Martyn Conterio sees an “occasionally opaque but tremendously well-made melodrama,” that “turns the tables on genre conventions and expectations.” And in his dispatch for the A.V. Club, A.A. Dowd praises Diao's filmmaking prowess: “What it’s really about is the interplay of shadows and neon, and the endless possibilities of bodies in motion—planted on speeding motorcycles and racing up and down staircases, always chasing or being chased.”

Young Ahmed (Le Jeune Ahmed)
Drama | France/Belgium | Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne

movie still

The success of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne at Cannes cannot be overstated. They have won two Palmes d’Or (Rosetta and L'Enfant (The Child)), best screenplay (Lorna's Silence), and a Grand Prix (The Kid with a Bike). You can now add a (rather unexpected) best director trophy to that haul, even though their new film didn't exactly wow reviewers. Young Ahmed's story of the radicalized Islamic teenager of the title is “reasonably gripping on a scene-by-scene level, and about as starkly unsentimental as any of the Dardennes’ lean, urgent moral thrillers. But its inability to shine a light on Ahmed’s soul leaves it feeling more like an exercise than anything the brothers have made, especially by its hasty, unearned ending,” writes A.A. Dowd in his B– assessment for the A.V. Club. At IndieWire, Eric Kohn agrees that the film “never quite gets beyond the fundamental challenge Ahmed faces to provide deeper insights into his behavior.” However, Screen Daily's Allan Hunter believes this “compelling social realist drama” is a “return to form after the disappointment of The Unknown Girl, and CineVue's Martyn Conterio believes it’s an “exceptionally crafted and intelligent film.”

Zombi Child
Drama/Horror/Fantasy | France | Directed by Bertrand Bonello

movie still

The latest from writer-director Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama, House of Pleasures) jumps between two stories. One takes place in 1962 Haiti and follows a man (Mackenson Bijou) as he dies and then comes back to life, only to be enslaved. The second occurs at a boarding school in contemporary France where a Haitian teenager (Wislanda Louimat) attempts to make friends with a heartbroken classmate. For the A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd, it’s a heady mix of “coming-of-age drama, tortured romance, and supernatural horror” that doesn’t quite come together, but “Bonello’s typically seductive craftsmanship” makes it worth the trip. THR's Jordan Mintzer also praises Bonello’s “exquisite” craft, but believes it can’t overcome a “story (or stories) that may have some viewers zombying out before the film is over.” Fully on board with Bonello’s “bracingly alive” zombie drama, Jonathan Romney of Screen Daily writes, “Mixing political commentary, ethnography, teenage melodrama and genre horror, the film is an unashamedly cerebral study of multiple themes – colonialism, revolution, liberalism, racial difference and female desire - with its unconventional narrative structure taking us on a journey that’s as intellectually demanding as it is compelling.”

The disappointments

The Dead Don't Die Watch trailer
Fantasy/Horror/Comedy | USA | Directed by Jim Jarmusch

movie still

In 2016, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson scored rave reviews when it premiered in Cannes. But this year Jarmusch earned mostly shrugs for his new (un)deadpan comedy, starring Bill Murray and Adam Driver as cops who must deal with their small town’s growing zombie population. (The film opens in theaters on June 14.) Detractors include John Bleasdale of CineVue, who claims the film “dies halfway through and fails to reanimate itself,” and The A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd, who finds it “arch and unimaginative.” On the positive side, The Telegraph's Robbie Collin describes the “winningly eccentric film” as “low-key uproarious.” And splitting the difference is David Ehrlich, who writes in his IndieWire review, “Tilda Swinton, and her delightful performance shoots the movie full of fresh embalming fluid every time it starts to rot. Which is often."

Frankie
Drama | France/Portugal | Directed by Ira Sachs

movie still

Director Ira Sachs headed into competition at Cannes for the first time on a bit of a roll after scoring terrific reviews for his most recent features Little Men and Love Is Strange. And Frankie, which was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics just prior to the start of Cannes, stars festival favorite Isabelle Huppert in the title role as a famous French actress who learns that she has just a few months left to live and gathers her family and friends together for a final gathering in Portugal. (Also starring are Greg Kinnear, Marisa Tomei, and Brendan Gleeson.) That might sound like a film destined for Cannes success, but critics say otherwise. In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw is baffled to find "a blank, uneasy, pointless, variably acted multinational production" that comes off like late Woody Allen (but somehow devoid of both laughs and seriousness). The Playlist's Caroline Tsai feels this "meandering, slow-to-develop, and slower-to-finish family drama" is further marred by the unlikability of its characters. Screen's Jonathan Romney finds it all "a little bland" and notes occasional "leadenness in the acting."

But some critics are more positive. The Wrap's Ben Croll seems to like what he sees as a "melancholic tone poem," thanks to "another beautifully modulated turn" from Huppert, though he adds that some cast members "feel particularly underused." In Variety, a semi-approving Owen Gleiberman thinks Frankie may be "the closest that anyone has come to making an American version of an Eric Rohmer film"—unfortunately, it's not "a major Rohmer film." And THR's David Rooney finds "many gentle pleasures" in the film, though topping his list are the "gorgeous locations" rather than something more substantial.

Joan of Arc (Jeanne)
Drama/Musical | France | Directed by Bruno Dumont

movie still

Bruno Dumont's even more stylized sequel to his stylized rock musical Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc continues the story (in the year 1429) by adapting the final two parts of Charles Peguy's play "Domrémy," centering on the final two years in Joan's life. She's played again by Lise Leplat Prudhomme, though the actress is now many years younger than her character. (Critics agree that it's an inspired casting choice, however.) It's also slightly less of a musical this time around, though it does incorporate music (often in unconventional ways, as in a horse ballet battle scene), including new songs by Christophe (who appears briefly). Critics didn't love the previous film, and they seem to like this one much less. It's a "punishing watch," warns The Playlist's Caroline Tsai. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw is exasperated by an "opaque and unrewarding" film whose pace is "measured, restrained and often torpid." Slant's Sam C. Mac thinks it "never coalesces its potential into the major work it clearly strives to be." In Screen, Jonathan Romney finds it "a more conventional drama than its predecessor," and one that fails to shed new light on Joan's life. And while THR's Jordan Mintzer admits that fans of the director and "Joan of Arc movie adaptation completists" may get something out of the film, he warns that "many will find watching the 137-minute movie akin to being burnt at the stake."

Little Joe
Sci-fi/Horror | Austria/UK/Germany | Directed by Jessica Hausner

movie still

The vibrant English-language debut from Cannes regular Jessica Hausner focuses on Alice (Emily Beecham, the festival's surprise best actress winner), a scientist working on developing a new plant species (pictured above) designed to make people happier. When she breaks her employer's rules and sneaks a plant out of the lab to bring it home for her teenage son, she learns that it is far more powerful—and less benign—than first believed. Variety's Owen Gleiberman believes the result to be "artfully unnerving" and "austerely hypnotic" modern update of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers formula—a comparison that every reviewer makes. (Many critics also think it plays like a lesser Black Mirror episode.) The Wrap's Ben Croll also likens Little Joe to David Lynch's Eraserhead, while praising the "hypnotic" (if "loud") imagery, though he does note a lack of thematic subtlety. The Telegraph's Tim Robey thinks it might be too subtle—or at least, too "chilly" and too "neat," hampered a bit by a script that "has a slightly stilted, translated-into-English quality which adds to the distancing effect." But Screen's Wendy Ide sees that as an asset, noting "a slightly robotic" quality to the acting that "gives the film an unsettling oddness" (though she notes the effect works better with some actors than others). But the titular plant seems unable to lift the mood of THR's Todd McCarthy, who dismisses the film as "lifeless" and "tone-deaf" while noting an "utter lack of any suspense or excitement." The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw is also "disappointed," though the "fascinating" visuals lift his spirits a bit.

Matthias & Maxime
Drama | Canada | Directed by Xavier Dolan

movie still

Almost all of French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan's films have screened at Cannes, where he won a number of awards including the Grand Prix in 2016. His latest, which finds him returning to French dialogue (and a Quebec setting) after his 2018 English-language debut and career-worst film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, focuses on a pair of childhood friends (one played by Dolan himself) who are required to kiss for their roles in a short film—a moment that sparks a further exploration of their feelings. For THR's Jon Frosch, Matthias & Maxime is not quite a return to form; he finds it "amiable enough, even occasionally affecting," and relatively restrained (for Dolan), but also lacking "purpose and passion." Screen critic Tim Grierson similarly thinks the movie is "a florid melodrama" that lacks grit. The Telegraph's Robbie Collin considers it more of a "slight but necessary palate-cleanser" that marks "Dolan’s most conventional and accessible work to date." And A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd declares it "curiously flat and dreary-looking," which probably won't be printed on the film's poster. But Variety's Guy Lodge does deem it a "back-to-basics reset" that finds the filmmaker in "confident" and "seasoned" form. And The Wrap's Steve Pond welcomes Dolan's "warmth and restraint," while The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw praises the film's "tenderness and gentleness."

Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo
Drama | France | Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche

movie still

Critics had absolutely no difficulty identifying this year's worst Cannes entry. Just six years ago, Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Color was the unanimous winner of the Palme d'Or. But his 2017 follow-up, Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno, was such a disappointment that it failed to get U.S. distribution. (And Kechiche had to sell his Palme d'Or to fund the film's post-production.) Now comes Mektoub's plot-free, 212-minute sequel, also (in theory) based on François Bégaudeau's novel La Blessure, la vraie. It takes place almost entirely in a nightclub in 1994 and features a nearly (or entirely) pornographic, 14-minute sex scene—think of the ending of The Brown Bunny, but with the roles reversed. You may not be surprised to learn that a decent portion of the audience appears to have walked out midway through the screening. But you may be amused to discover that Sir Mix-a-Lot appears to have a new rival.

"No filmmaker has ever loved anything as much as Abdellatif Kechiche loves butts," begins David Ehrlich's IndieWire review—and it all goes downhill from there. (Though we are partial to Ehrlich's tweet: "[I]t's the same length as Lawrence of Arabia, and literally 60% of the movie is close-ups of butts.") The Telegraph's Robbie Collin couldn't agree more, winkingly calling the film "a bum trip and then some," while L.A. Times critic Justin Chang thinks it finds the director "operating at the literally butt-numbing nadir of his powers." In Variety, Guy Lodge finds the "almost spitefully monotonous" film to be "all twerk and no play" and suggests it "plays a little like Gaspar Noé with all his hallucinogenics confiscated and replaced with Bacardi Breezers." In The New York Times, Kyle Buchanan pegs Intermezzo as "the world’s artiest 'Girls Gone Wild' video," which, with that "artiest" modifier, is about as close to a positive review as this film has received. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, one of the few critics to like the first Mektoub film, calls this sequel "a bizarre, colossally self-indulgent, almost avant-garde followup" that finds the director looking "less like Eric Rohmer and more like Russ Meyer," while THR's Boyd van Hoeij thinks Intermezzo boasts maybe 20 minutes' worth of story and "is nearly impossible to get through." (And we didn't even mention The Playlist's Caroline Tsai, for whom the film "begins to feel like a human rights violation.") Just about every critic thinks that controversy magnet Kechiche is trolling his critics—or at least playing an elaborate joke on the public—and many question why it was allowed into the competition. Concludes the A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd, "That this colossal bore ... earned a spot in the competition lineup is the only evidence you could ever need that once you’ve gotten into this club, you’re in."

Don't worry: Kechiche has already filmed the third installment in the series, Canto Due.

Oh Mercy! (Roubaix, Une Lumière)
Drama | France | Directed by Arnaud Desplechin

movie still

Two years after opening the festival with Ismael's Ghosts, Arnaud Desplechin returned to Cannes with his sixth film to play in competition. Based on a 2008 TV documentary, this police procedural “has no business competing for the Palme d’Or,” in the opinion of CineVue's Martyn Conterio. Taking place in the director’s hometown of Roubaix, the split narrative follows a police captain (Roschdy Zem) around town before becoming an interrogation drama with the focus on two young women (Lea Seydoux and Sara Forestier) suspected of arson. THR's Boyd van Hoeij finds the first hour “dynamic and, occasionally, even action-packed,” before a less vital second hour begins. In his review for IndieWire, David Ehrlich calls the film a “ponderous true-crime procedural” that’s “mostly lifeless but peripherally compelling,” comparing it to an “especially dull episode of Law & Order: Roubaix.” Defending the film in Film Comment, Jonathan Romney writes, “In its way, this is as much a philosophical and theological Cannes 2019 title as Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, but it’s a substantially more pragmatic and convincing one: to suggests that there’s somehow grace to be found on France’s meanest streets may seem a rarefied ambition, and perhaps even an improper one in a film drawn from hard reportage. But it’s something that Desplechin pulls off, with not a jot of his usual cinematic dandyism; for me, it was one of the most welcome surprises of this year’s festival.”

Sibyl
Drama/Comedy | France/Belgium | Directed by Justine Triet

movie still

Director Justine Triet’s third feature stars her In Bed with Victoria lead Virginie Efira as a psychotherapist whose return to her first passion, writing, gets a spark when she begins to record her sessions with a troubled actress played by Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Color). Ed Frankl of The Film Stage deems it an “alluring but ultimately throwaway erotic thriller” that feels “unbalanced between moments of black comedy and its more conventional psychodrama conceit.” The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw is less forgiving, calling it a “muddled, silly comedy-drama,” with acting that is “not of the highest order.” But other critics praise Efira’s lead performance, with Variety's Guy Lodge claiming it marks the “arrival of Efira, once pegged as a likable but lightweight comedienne, as a first-class leading lady of consistently expanding range and elan — with the emotional honesty and deadpan pluck to pull off the more outrageous character turns in Triet and Arthur Harari’s limber original script.”

Tommaso
Drama | Italy | Directed by Abel Ferrara

movie still

One of four potential 2019 releases for director Abel Ferrara (following Pasolini and Tribeca-screened The Projectionist), the semi-autobiographical, low-budget drama Tommaso follows an American director and recovering addict (Willem Dafoe) who is living in Rome (in what is Ferrara's actual apartment) with his wife and young daughter (who are played by Ferrara's real-life partner and child). In IndieWire, Eric Kohn compares the film to a "microbudget 'Birdman'" that feels like "Ferrara's most personal work on many levels." Variety's Owen Gleiberman notes some inattention to detail and finds the film overlong and unstructured, but adds, "Scene for scene, though, 'Tommaso' feels alive as a movie," mainly due to another strong Dafoe performance. (It goes without saying, but every critic appreciates Dafoe's performance here.) The Playlist's Bradley Warren comes down harder on what he sees as mere "navel-gazing" (a term echoed by Screen's Tim Grierson) that is more "long-winded than intimate."

Too Old to Die Young
TV/Drama | USA | Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

movie still

A 10-episode Amazon miniseries directed in its entirety by Cannes regular Nicolas Winding Refn (who also penned the script with comic book writer Ed Brubaker), Too Old stars Miles Teller as a police officer-turned-hitman who crosses paths with the man who killed his partner in a very diverse Los Angeles criminal underworld populated by the Yakuza, members of the Russian mafia, Mexican cartel assassins, and other unsavory characters. John Hakwes, Billy Baldwin, and Jena Malone also star, while Darius Khondji serves as one of the cinematographers and Cliff Martinez provides the score for the series, which streams in June.

Two of the episodes (weirdly, episodes 4 and 5, leaving viewers a bit confused) debuted at Cannes—making it the first streaming series ever to screen at the festival—and it unsurprisingly provoked a divided reaction from critics. In THR, David Rooney dismisses Too Old as a "stylishly crafted but stultifyingly dull" exercise in "empty genre posturing." Like Rooney, The Pond's Sharon Waxman takes issue with the slow pacing and wonders "what is the point" of exploring "violence for its own sake" anymore. At The Playlist, Charles Bramesco uses the word "tedium" and partially blames Teller's "tired and vacant" performance, though he assigns most of the fault to Refn, who is "nearly subsumed here by his own style" and mired in routine. IndieWire's Eric Kohn describes the two episodes as "a mixed bag of self-serious storytelling and pulpy action," though episode five contains a car chase that could be Refn's "best filmmaking since 'Drive,' and maybe ever." But the UK press seems even more appreciative. Telegraph film critic Robbie Collin says, "having dipped a toe, full-body submersion can’t come soon enough." And The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, in a 4/5 review, concludes, "Too Old To Die Young is macabre, and nauseating in many ways, but very well made and very watchable."

The Traitor
Drama | Italy/France/Germany/Brazil | Directed by Marco Bellocchio

movie still

Competing at Cannes for the seventh time, Italian director Marco Bellocchio still doesn't have a Palme d'Or—and this time, he doesn't even have good reviews. His last film to play in competition at Cannes was 2009’s Vincere (a look at the life of Mussolini and his marriage to Ida Dalser), and this new film is another biopic, but a less successful one in the eyes of critics. Spanning decades and continents, the film tells the story of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), the mafia boss who informed on the Sicilian syndicate in the 1980s. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw believes the film lacks “the lightning-flash of inspiration” and the “human interest or incidental detail” of something like Goodfellas, despite there being “show-stopping scenes.” In his review for Screen Daily, Tim Grierson argues that “Bellocchio can’t entirely overcome the material’s two key limitations: audience familiarity with the milieu and the denseness of detail within this true story. That said, Pierfrancesco Favino is such a commanding presence as Buscetta — imposing but also unknowable — that other concerns almost don’t matter.” Also landing in the well-made but lacking camp is THR's Jay Weissberg, “It’s clearly made by a master filmmaker questioning the nature of repentance, and as such is far from superficial; and yet while it never loses our attention, it also doesn’t deliver much of a punch.”

 

Comments (3)

  • Justhetip  

    Im sorry, so you want the panel to reverse their unanimous decision they made because the director is a guy??????????????????

  • IrradiatedNun  

    Who are you arguing with? Weirdo.

  • Takeru  

    LMAO Parasite is the best reviewed film of festival by far. Just because Portrait of Lady on Fire has a higher metascore, it doesn't mean it's the best reviewed one. The world doesn't revolve around metacritic or American critics. There are hundreds of critics all around the world and they preferred Parasite, just like Cannes jury.

New in Metacritic Reports

What Our Users Are Talking About

  1. /feature/best-of-august-2019 Image
    Best of August 2019: Top Albums, Games, Movies & TV
    August 31, 2019 - 2 comments
    1. MaedaRuinedFE : I know it's kinda unrelated but people have begun review bombing FE3H and Astral Chain just for being Switch... Read »
    2. MaedaRuinedFE : I know it's kinda unrelated but people have begun review bombing FE3H and Astral Chain just for being Switch... Read »
  2. /feature/top-movies-to-see-in-september-2019 Image
    16 Films to See in September
    August 30, 2019 - 1 comment
    1. YellowJuice : nice Read »
  3. /feature/metacritic-must-see-movies Image
    New on Metacritic: Must-See Movies
    June 11, 2018 - 5 comments
    1. HelghastMarchKZ : Cooool Read »
  4. /feature/nintendo-switch-console-hardware-review Image
    Hardware Review: Nintendo Switch
    March 1, 2017 - 8 comments
    1. 7PageDisparagin : The negative comments aged like milk. Read »
  5. /feature/now-streaming-on-amazon-instant-video Image
    What to Watch Now on Prime Video
    September 16, 2019 - 12 comments
    1. behamilton : Love these lists. But how about when you hover over a title, instead of the cast, you got the plot summary? That... Read »
  6. /feature/tv-premiere-dates Image
    2019 Fall TV Premiere Calendar
    August 12, 2019 - 210 comments
    1. Iwatchtvalot : Teen Mom 2 - Tuesday - Mtv Read »
    2. Sjberke : Also Sanditon (from Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel) starting Sunday, January 13, 2020. Read »
    3. Sjberke : PBS just put The Press on the Masterpiece schedule starting Sunday, October 6. Read »
    4. blarpisblarp : All New Holmes & Holmes September 4 @ 9/8c On the the American DIY Channel Read »