After offering up a reduced, slightly belated 2021 edition, the Cannes Film Festival is back in its usual plum May spot, and with an enviable lineup to match. This year’s festival includes new films from some of cinema’s biggest names, including David Cronenberg, Kelly Reichardt, Claire Denis, Arnaud Desplechin, the Dardenne brothers, James Gray, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Ruben Ostlund, Park Chan-wook, and more.
There are big studio efforts on offer (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Elvis”), along with singular indies from a range of rising stars (“Rodeo,” “War Pony,” “God’s Creatures”) and new features from some of our favorite auteurs (“Armageddon Time,” “Crimes of the Future,” “Showing Up,” “Three Thousand Years of Longing”).
Digging through the Cannes lineup is always a treat, but this year’s selection feels particularly rich and rewarding. You can’t go wrong with this one, but that didn’t stop us from trawling this year’s picks to unearth the 18 titles we’re most excited about seeing, the creme de la creme of a festival that strives to only program the best.
This year’s festival runs Tuesday, May 17 through Saturday, May 28. Read up on all of IndieWire’s coverage right here.
Anne Thompson also contributed to this article.
Tipped as a major breakout from this year’s Critics’ Week sidebar (there’s always at least one), the debut feature from Scottish writer-director Charlotte Wells stars Frankie Corio as an 11-year-old girl named Sophie whose father (“Normal People” it boy Paul Mescal, making an unexpected leap into paternal roles) takes her on holiday to a Turkish resort in the late ’90s.
Told in retrospect from the present day, “Aftersun” weaves Sophie’s half-remembered — and perhaps invented — memories of the trip around the cold spine provided by her father’s MiniDV footage from the trip, reconciling Sophie’s girlhood understanding of her father with a more distanced perspective. Produced by Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski, and Mark Ceryak through their fast-rising production company Pastel, as well as Amy Jackson of Unified Theory, “Aftersun” is a small movie that has the potential to cast a long shadow. —DE
Cannes competition auteur James Gray marks his fifth Cannes go-round — after “The Yards,” “We Own the Night,” “Two Lovers,” and “The Immigrant” — with a return to a more personal coming-of-age story, set in upscale Queens in the pre-Reagan ’80s. Gray penciled in Oscar Isaac, Robert De Niro, and Cate Blanchett before finally directing Anthony Hopkins, plus Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway as the parents of a young son (Banks Repeta) who tangles with the Trump family at the elite Kew-Forest School in Queens. (Fred Trump served on the board of the school, where his son Donald Trump attended.) Gray filmed in New Jersey with “The Immigrant” and “Lost City of Z” cinematographer Darius Khondji. —AT
After winning the Palme d’Or with his 2018 masterpiece “Shoplifters,” Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda seized on his newfound cachet by shooting his follow-up film in Paris with a cast of major American and French stars. “The Truth” proved to be another of Kore-eda’s immaculate stories of families lost and found, but the sweet meta-textual drama premiered in Venice to polite applause and measured fanfare. The fact that “Broker” has received a coveted spot in Cannes’ official competition lineup raises hopes for a true return to form.
Shot in South Korea, and reuniting the director with “Air Doll” star Bae Doona, Kore-eda’s latest drama finds the filmmaker continuing to hop around the globe while also staying in decidedly familiar territory, as its premise hinges on baby boxes — where people can anonymously drop off unwanted infants — in a way that can’t help but summon memories of “Shoplifters,” “I Wish,” and “Like Father, Like Son.” Throw “Parasite” legend Song Kang-ho into the mix and you have a fine recipe to recapture that vintage Kore-eda magic. —DE
“Crimes of the Future”
While some of David Cronenberg’s 21st century work has been widely embraced (the genre-inflected “A History of Violence” most of all), his less familiar and more despairing takes on the state of Western civilization (“Cosmopolis,” for example) were met with a decidedly mixed response. In hindsight, it seems as if the films that fall into that latter category were just a hair ahead of their time. Cronenberg stepped away from the game after 2014’s “Maps to the Stars,” but judging by the internet’s rabid response to the news of his return, it would appear as if the world has caught up with the auteur during his eight-year absence — just in time for him to once again vault forward into the future.
Unrelated to Cronenberg’s 1970 cheapie of the same name, “Crimes of the Future” offers a vision of tomorrow in which the human body has begun to adapt to its increasingly synthetic environment. Cronenberg favorite Viggo Mortensen plays Saul Tenser, a performance artist who seizes on the first hints of evolution and makes organ metamorphosis the subject of his public art… much to the displeasure of the National Organ Registry agent (Kristen Stewart), who soon finds herself in too deep with Tenser’s crew. Brace for oodles of blood, body horror for the ages, and a forward-thinking return to the stuff of vintage Cronenberg. —DE
“Decision to Leave”
There’s never a bad time for a new Park Chan-wook movie, but two years of sterile and confined pandemic cinema has left us hungrier than ever for the “Oldboy” director’s symphonic approach to filmmaking. After a brief foray into television confirmed that Park’s intricate maximalism is poorly suited for the pace and scope of a miniseries, the Korean auteur returns to the big screen with a sweeping mystery about a detective (Park Hae-il) who falls in love with the widowed prime suspect of his latest murder investigation (she’s played by Chinese star Tang Wei, a legend for her work in “Lust, Caution,” “Blackhat,” and “Long Day’s Journey into Night” alone).
The film’s electric teaser trailer suggests that “Decision to Leave” finds Park back to what he does best: Making dizzyingly ornate (and deliciously violent) movies that churn everyday killings into something much larger than life. —DE
Australian writer-director Baz Luhrmann returns to Cannes — where he debuted “Strictly Ballroom” (1992), “Moulin Rouge” (2001), and “The Great Gatsby” (2013) — with his out-of-competition biopic starring Austin Butler in the title role and Olivia DeJonge as his wife Priscilla Presley (who approves of the film). The story is told through the eyes of Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), who shepherded the rock star over 20 years.
Theatre actress Helen Thomson (“Top of the Lake: China Girl”) plays Elvis’ mother, Richard Roxburgh (“Moulin Rouge!”) is Elvis’ father, and among the actors taking on iconic musicians are Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”) as Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (“The Trial of the Chicago 7″) as B.B. King, Yola as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, model Alton Mason as Little Richard, Gary Clark Jr. as Arthur Crudup, and artist Shonka Dukureh as Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. Luhrmann directed from a screenplay he wrote with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, and Jeremy Doner. The film was shot by cinematographer Mandy Walker (“Mulan,” “Australia”) in Queensland, Australia. —AT
“The Five Devils”
Five years after bowing her feature directorial debut “Ava” at Cannes’ Critics Week, French filmmaker Lea Mysius seems poised to bring her latest vision to a bigger stage on the Croisette. Much like “Ava,” which followed a teenage girl grappling with her impending loss of vision, “The Five Devils” is similarly obsessed with the senses. This time around, it’s smell, and the film follows a young girl (newbie Sally Dramé) who has long enjoyed a heightened ability to sniff things out. Her life is upended by the arrival of her “mysterious aunt Julia,” who unearths all manner of familial secrets (some of them, it seems, even “magically”).
The film also stars a who’s-who of rising and known French talent, including Cannes regular Adèle Exarchopoulos, plus Daphne Patakia and Patrick Bouchitey. Since her directorial debut, Mysius has kept very busy indeed, co-writing scripts from films ranging from Claire Denis’ upcoming “The Stars at Noon,” Jacques Audiard’s Cannes 2021 entry “Paris, 13th District” (which premiered at Cannes last year), and Arnaud Desplechin’s “Oh Mercy!” Looking for the next big name in French filmmaking? It’s Mysius. —KE
Actor-director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi last brought “A Castle in Italy” to Cannes competition in 2013, when she was the only woman director with a movie in competition. Fortunately, she has a bit more company now, and deserves singling out for other reasons that have to do with her singular focus. Tedeschi makes subtle and intelligent character studies drawn in part from her own life. This time, she widens her scope with a 1980s ensemble piece following a quartet of 20-year-olds admitted to Les Amandiers, the revered acting school run by Patrice Chéreau.
The drama finds them going through a series of ups and downs as well as a group tragedy that tests their bounds. Tedeschi’s existing work suggests a movie less about specific plot twists than the gradual immersion into the nature of people at turning points in their lives. In that respect, “Forever Young” is poised to offer a glimpse at French youth culture that resonates across multiple generations of the country’s artistic community while inviting others to celebrate the era through the delicate framework of creative lives coming into being. Louis Garrel, Nadia Tereszkiewicz, and Alexia Chardard are among the formidable cast. —EK
Anna Rose Holmer’s “The Fits” was a staggering debut focused on a mysterious ailment overtaking a small town, and illustrated the vision of a director drawn to scrutinizing the world through surprising layers of cinematic mystery. For her follow-up, premiering in Directors’ Fortnight, the filmmaker co-directs with “The Fits” editor Saela Davis the story of a woman who lies to protect her son in a small fishing village, then deals with the unsettling ramifications of her decisions.
With a cast that includes Emily Watson, Paul Mescal, and Aisling Franciosi, “God’s Creatures” promises another atmospheric look at an insular town under the grip of dark secrets that threaten its idyllic form, and one that should further establish appreciation for its meticulous filmmaking team. —EK
Iranian-born Dutch director Ali Abbasi follows up his surprise Cannes hit “Border” with the provocative dramatization of the “Spider Killer,” otherwise known as Saeed Hanaei, a man who believed he was on a holy mission to cleanse the city of Mashhad by killing prostitutes. Though he was arrest for his crimes in 2001, much of the public supported Hanaei’s mission.
Abbasi uses this bizarre and disturbing story as a portal into the broader issues of misogyny and religious extremism that ripple across Iranian society, centering these problems around the experiences of a female journalist (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) as she attempts to unearth the killer’s identity. A rare critical look at Iranian society through the prism of its own people, “Holy Spider” is guaranteed to generate a lot of debate in its home country following the premiere at Cannes. —EK
French actor extraordinaire Louis Garrel has a face for the movies, and usually surfaces in a lot of them at Cannes, but his skills behind the camera have been less appreciated. Nevertheless, Garrel has made quiet headway as a filmmaker in recent years with humorous portraits of misguided people who make radical choices: His playful marriage comedy “A Faithful Man” was a memorable look at infidelity, while last year’s “The Crusade” offered a satirical take on climate change activism. But Garrel’s developing comedic instincts may have reached a high point this year with “The Innocent,” the sort of French crowdpleaser that could go far at Cannes.
The movie (which Garrel co-wrote with novelist Tanguy Viel), focuses on a genial 60-year-old woman who falls in love with an imprisoned man (Roschdy Zem). When the pair decide to get married, the woman’s son (Garrel) so disapproves of the union that he asks a friend to help him stop it — leading to a series of ill-conceived schemes. Expected a loopy dark comedy in which everything goes very wrong, unless you’re the audience, which is likely to be in stitches. Programmed out of competition, “The Innocent” may end up as one of the more commercial entries in the official Cannes selection. —EK
Documentarian Brett Morgen (“Cobain: Montage of Heck,” “Jane”) landed the plum assignment of directing the first officially sanctioned David Bowie documentary feature, which debuts in the Midnight screenings section. To chart Bowie’s creative, musical, and spiritual journey, Morgen dug into a kaleidoscope of never-before-seen 16 and 35mm footage, performances, and music, with narration from the musician himself.
In 2017, Morgen was given full access to Bowie’s personal archives, including all master recordings. The film explores not only Bowie’s life, but his cross-discipline performance art, from music and film to dance, painting, sculpture, video and audio collage, screenwriting, acting and live theatre. The motion picture features 48 of Bowie’s musical tracks, mixed from their original stems in Dolby Atmos. All of the film performances appear for the first time. “Moonage Daydream” refers to Bowie’s eponymous song from the 1972 album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” which introduced his gender-bending stage persona, Ziggy Stardust. —AT
Lola Quivoron’s feature debut, premiering in Un Certain Regard, is already the talk of the festival, and the damn event hasn’t even kicked off yet. Billed as a “turbocharged” drama, the French film is rife with intriguing elements: a star making her acting debut (Julie Ledru), a plot about an underground group (French dirt bikers), and the promise of some truly thrilling stunts (thanks to veteran stunt expert Mathieu Lardot, who has worked on everything from the Jason Bourne franchise to the “Mission: Impossible” films).
Ledru stars in the film as Julia, an independent young woman who spends her time at clandestine “rodeos” that feature daring dirt bikers. When Julia, already living life on the edge, falls in with a biking crew during one of such rodeo, it totally changes her existence, and we’re guessing it’s not entirely for the better. Quivoron’s feature sounds like a heart-pounding mix of coming-of-age drama, crime thriller, and action outing, the kind of stuff that’s ripe for discovery at the festival. —KE
One of great chroniclers of American alienation, Kelly Reichardt’s immersive filmmaking continues to enthrall audiences with unpredictable journeys. Her A24 partnership on “First Cow” resulted in one of her most exciting undertakings, a playful 19th century character study that doubled as a meditation on early capitalist pursuits. Now she’s re-teaming with the company and regular collaborator Michelle Williams, who gave some of her most memorable turns in Reichardt’s “Wendy and Lucy,” “Meek’s Cutoff,” and “Certain Women.” Here she plays “an artist on the verge of a career-changing exhibition,” per an official description when production was announced a year ago.
Co-written by Reichardt’s regular collaborator Jon Raymond, the movie also includes quite the expansive cast: André Benjamin, Hong Chau, Judd Hirsch, Amanda Palmer, and “First Cow” star John Magaro are among the impressive ensemble, and the movie promises to tackle a milieu we haven’t quite seen in Reichardt’s oeuvre before — the plight of the modern artist, something she knows a thing or two about. The director has been to Cannes before as a juror, while “Wendy and Lucy” cracked Un Certain Regard, but she’s never had a film in competition. 2022 is the year that changes that. —EK
“The Silent Twins”
Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska knows a thing or two about unraveling complex tales of womanhood on the big screen, thanks to her previous outings “Fugue” (a wife and mother returns to her old life after years spent in a titular fugue state, losing her memory and perhaps her self along the way) and “The Lure” (mermaid sisters are drafted into a cabaret, where their dueling sense of how to interact with humans is put to the test). For her next feature, Smoczynska turns those skills and obsessions to a fascinating true-life tale with no easy answers.
Born in 1963, twins June and Jennifer Gibbons were always close, but as their lives got more fraught — a family move to Wales, where they were the only Black family in town, being top of mind — the pair only turned more firmly toward each other. Eventually, the girls stopped speaking to anyone but each other, carving out an insular world that hinged on their bond, their shared love of writing and storytelling, and little else. What happened to the Gibbons girls has already made for a TV drama and a well-received documentary, but “The Silent Twins” offers a fresh, unnerving examination of the duo (played in their later years by Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrence), with the kind of creative touches befitting a feature about a pair of true outsider artists. If you don’t know what became of them, now is the time to suggest you don’t go searching until you see Smoczynska’s startling film. —KE
“Three Thousand Years of Longing”
Playing out of competition, writer-director George Miller is back in the directing saddle with this $60-million romantic fantasy follow-up to 2015 action epic “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which also debuted at Cannes. (Miller served as jury president the following year.) Developed over ten years, this movie marks a smaller-scale drama dominated by dialogue, as a successful but lonely academic (Cannes perennial Tilda Swinton) encounters a Djinn (Idris Elba) who offers her three wishes for his freedom. They negotiate the terms in an Istanbul hotel room. Is granting love a wish? Among the returning “Fury Road” veterans are cinematographer John Seale, Oscar-winning editor Margaret Sixel, and Miller’s producing partner Doug Mitchell. —AT
“Triangle of Sadness”
Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund returns to the Cannes competition after winning the Palme d’Or with his art-world satire “The Square” in 2017. Taking another shot at the self-satisfied bourgeoisie, this time Östlund inverts the class structure by spitting the contents of a luxury cruise packed with fashionistas like models Yaya (Charlbi Dean) and Carl (Harris Dickinson) onto a desert island with a billionaire Russian oligarch, British arms dealers, a housekeeper, and an alcoholic Marxist captain (Woody Harrelson). Which of the marooned survivors will come out on top? —AT
Riley Keough makes her directorial debut alongside co-director Gina Gammell for this entry in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, which focuses on a 23-year-old man and 12-year-old boy growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation as they face an array of personal challenges en route to young adulthood. The movie was produced in concert with Pine Ridge locals and promises to offer an intimate look at indigenous communal life from the inside out.
Keough’s ability to make audacious swings as an actor in everything from “Zola” to “Under the Silver Lake” bodes well for her own filmmaking sensibilities, and early buzz suggests that the movie delivers a sensitive, immersive journey on par with other recent looks at indigenous American life, from “Reservation Dogs” to “The Rider,” which shares some producers with this project. —EK