Considered the most prestigious film festival in the world, Cannes presented a slate of nearly 100 films during its 70th go-round, which wrapped last week. The fest, which has launched the careers of Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh and countless other living legends, is where next year’s Oscar contenders premiere and winners of prizes like the Palme d’Or and Un Certain Regard cement a director’s place in film history.
This year’s Palme d’Or winner, The Square—an art-world satire by Swedish director Ruben Östelund, starring Elisabeth Moss—will likely be easy for audiences to discover, but there are many other films worth checking out, spanning mainstream, obscure, domestic and foreign terrain. To help you sort through the trove of films offered up at the Palais des Festivals and environs, we’ve put together a guide of the 10 films to come out of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival that should not go unseen.
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
Winner of Best Screenplay
Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek director of The Lobster, has re-teamed with Colin Farrell for a disturbing thriller that had critics both unsettled and fascinated. Sacred Deer is a reimagining of Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis, a tale of ultimate sacrifice. Farrell portrays a cardiologist who frequently meets with a 16-year-old boy named Martin without, for some reason, cluing in wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and their two kids about their rendez vous. The purpose behind the secret encounters slowly reveals itself as Lanthimos expertly pushes buttons, proving that discomfort is far more effective than a quick scare.
Winner of Jury Prize
Andrey Zvyagintsev, director of Golden Globe-winning Leviathan (not that one), returned to Cannes with another stark tale about Russian society, this one focusing on a young boy’s disappearance in the middle of his parents’ bitter divorce. Though both the mother and father of young Alyosha have a foot out the door of their marriage, the two are forced to come together to find their son. Far from a film about salvaging a relationship, Loveless is an unflinching look at a corrupt and cold society where the promise of a better life trumps civility. London’s Daily Telegraph called it a “pitiless critique on the director’s native Russia.”
Provocative director Michael Haneke and his now muse Isabelle Huppert reunite in a disturbing study of how we conduct our lives via screens and social media platforms. Set in Calais against the European refugee crisis, the film seems more of a commentary on privilege and nonchalance than migrants attempting to cross the Strait of Dover into England. While it’s a slow burn, something will happen, and something does happen (and we’re not just talking about the brutal karaoke scene). In true Haneke style, Happy End is categorized as horror.
The Korean-American film caused a stir at the Cannes Film Festival because of how Netflix distributes its films theatrically (or doesn’t), but despite all controversy Okja is a fairly traditional action comedy. Starring Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins and Paul Dano, director Bong Joon-ho’s follow up to Snowpiercer and The Host is a political satire that focuses on a young girl’s resolve to save her beloved super pig from the hands of a greedy corporation eager to turn said pig into bacon. After seeing Okja, you’ll never look at your BLT the same way again.
Winner of Art Cinema Award
Chinese director Chloé Zhao’s wistful film, about a young cowboy who after a near-fatal rodeo injury is forced to redefine his identity, picked up the Art Cinema Award, the top prize at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. The Rider, which offers viewers a feminine gaze on one of America’s most masculine motifs, is an impressionable work of docu-fiction, starring nonactors in roles inspired by their real-life experiences. The director, whose debut, Songs My Brothers Taught Me received accolades at Sundance two years ago, is definitely one to keep an eye on.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Sean Baker, who rose to notoriety with his iPhone-shot creation Tangerine—a film that followed trans sex workers in Hollywood—made his Cannes debut with another film shining a light on people living on the margins of society. The Florida Project is a look at living in extreme poverty just down the road from Walt Disney World, as seen through the eyes of six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince). It’s Baker’s first film with a significant budget and the first to star a well-known actor, Willem Dafoe, but fear not: Baker’s indiespirit remains intact.
Forget Twilight. Robert Pattinson shows off his true acting chops as a small-time criminal going to great—and often questionable—lengths to break his intellectually disabled brother out of police custody after a bank robbery lands him in Rikers. The moody heist film by siblings Josh and Benny Safdie evokes the gritty films of the 1970s, with a pumping synth score by experimental composer Daniel Lopatin. The key is whether you see Pattinson sympathetic as the agitated outsider out to help his brother. Even if you didn’t find Edward Cullen palatable, you might truly enjoy watching him nail this role.
120 BATTEMENTS PAR MINUTE
Winner of the Grand Prix
This French film, about the AIDS crisis in the 1990s, had critics in tears at the press screening. Moroccan-born director Robin Campillo—best known for writing The Class, which won the Palm d’Or in 2008—depicts the complicated love and sex lives of a community left to die. Campillo himself was a member of Paris branch of ACT UP (the political organization Larry Kramer founded in New York) and much of Battements seems deeply personal. Taking on an epidemic that almost 30 years later is still not extinguished, the film was widely considered the favorite for this year’s Palme d’Or.
Winner of Best Director
Sofia Coppola’s reimagining of Don Siegel’s 1971 film puts Colin Farrell in the shoes of Clint Eastwood as the wounded Confederate soldier taken in by the headmistress (Nicole Kidman) and her students at an all-girls boarding school. What makes the Marie Antoinette director’s version different is that she tells the story from the point of view of the women. It’s a film that inevitably will be open to a lot of interpretation: Is it a revenge drama? A southern gothic tale? A dark comedy? That’s for every audience member to decide. Thanks to cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, it’s beautiful, whatever it is.
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Winner of Best Actor
You will either love or hate Lynne Ramsay’s 85-minute hitman thriller, which follows Joe, a Gulf War Veteran and former FBI Agent, who is now a contract killer specializing in the sex-slavery trade. Joe is troubled, as evidenced by flashbacks. He is a man of (very) few words and appears indifferent to the outcome of his own life, though he manages to be fully invested in his mission of saving these young girls. Being stuck in the head of our protagonist is not a pleasant experience—but You Were Never Here and many others on this list, “pleasant” isn’t a prerequisite.