5 Stand Out Films: Cannes 2021

5 Stand Out Films: Cannes 2021

Back after a year’s absence, the Cannes Film Festival returned for its 74th edition, with a series of superb movies in the official selection. Whilst the jury, led by Spike Lee, is now deliberating over which competition film will take home the Palme d’Or, ASFF selects five of the best from across all strands.


Todd Haynes returned to the Croisette with his first documentary, playing out of competition. The director spirits viewers into the 1960s New York art scene for a dazzling look at the influential band The Velvet Underground. Using some stunning archive footage, viewers are met by pioneer Andy Warhol, singer Lou Reed and the rest of the band at the artist’s creative hub, The Factory. Featuring some great interviews too, including band members John Cale and Moe Tucker, Haynes plays with the form of the documentary with masterful results. 


It can sometimes be easy to overlook French director François Ozon, such is the prolific nature of his output. But this latest competition entry is one of his finest. Sophie Marceau is back in her best role in years – and would be a deserved Best Actress winner – as the daughter of an ageing man who decides he wants to die via assisted suicide. Adapted from the novel Everything Went Well by Emmanuèle Bernheim, Ozon balances melodrama with just the right amount of black humour to create an even-handed, unsentimental look at euthanasia.


Playing in the Un Certain Regard selection, Icelandic director Valdimar Jóhannsson makes his debut with this sensational tale about a childless couple (Hilmir Snær Guðnason and Noomi Rapace). The pair, who live on a remote sheep farm, receive the most bizarre of blessed gifts. A film too juicy to spoil, this is a clever mix of folk horror – drawing from Icelandic myths, familial drama and black comedy. Easily the most surprising and weirdest film of the festival.


Ari Folman, the Israeli director behind the Waltz With Bashir, is back with another animation, playing out of competition. This time, he delivered an intoxicating film that works for both adults and children, exploring the world of Anne Frank. The girl who wrote a diary whilst in hiding during World War II is brought back to life, along with her imaginary friend Kitty, in a hugely clever film that examines just what her legacy means in today’s world.


Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has already won Berlin’s Golden Bear for his breakthrough film A Separation, which went on to win the Palme d’Or. Now he’s got another award-worthy film with this rigorous tale of Rahim (Amir Jadidi), a divorced father in prison for debt. Whilst on a two-day leave from jail, Rahim comes across a life-changing find. A richly complex work about truth, lies and freedom, it’s yet another fascinating snapshot of Iranian society from one of the country’s most accessible and yet thought-provoking directors.

The Cannes Film Festival runs until July 17th. For more details click here.

James Mottram