Another year, another Cannes Film Festival in the, er, can. This year the prestigious cinematic showcase celebrated its 75th year (fun fact: Brief Encounter competed in the first). It was seen as something of a return to normality, with glitzy premieres for Hollywood mega-movies, like Top Gun: Maverick and Elvis, the return of David Cronenberg to body horror, a fantasy romance from Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller, and new films from world cinema heroes like Hirokazu Kore-eda and Park Chan-wook.
Touted as one of the most promising line-ups in the festival’s history, this year’s slate ultimately proved a broadly solid if generally unexceptional selection, with no obvious breakout hit akin to 2019’s Parasite among the competition for the Palme d’Or. We saw a lot of films. Not all of which we had time to write about at length, but you can read our thoughts on the good, great and truly terrible that didn’t make the Total Film top 10 in our review of Cannes 2022.
As for the crème de la crème, the picks of the Palme, put these at the top of your list when they finally release in cinemas – every one is well worth your time (note: Top Gun: Maverick and Men have been omitted, despite receiving 5* reviews from TF, as both premiered and we’re reviewed by us ahead of Cannes Film Festival). Without further ado, here’s the Total Film top 10 of Cannes 2022.
The movie: In provincial Belgium, a pair of 13-year-old boys find the bond they have had since childhood put to the test when a new school year starts. Embarrassed by Rémi’s neediness, Léo rejects him in favour of new alliances and pastimes. Then something happens that forces him to face up to the consequences of his actions.
Our verdict: Sensitive, graceful and impeccably restrained, Lukas Dhont’s heartbreaking story of two childhood pals drifting apart belongs to a long and noble tradition of poignant coming of agers. The way he gets us to root for and invest in his youthful characters, only to then deliver a devastatingly emotional sucker punch, is more than a tad manipulative. As with his 2018 debut feature Girl, though, this is all in the service of fostering a greater empathy for those who don’t conform and are cruelly ostracized for it.
Read our full review of Close.
Decision To Leave
The movie: After a mountain climber falls to his death, a South Korean detective interviews the dead man’s wife and finds her curiously unimpacted by the fact she has just become a widow. Suspecting foul play the cop sets out to investigate, only to develop a romantic obsession with this mysterious femme fatale that puts his own marriage at risk.
Our verdict: Hitchcock vibes abound in Park Chan-wook’s melodrama, an achingly romantic throwback to the noirs of yesteryear that infuses a contemporary crime thriller with a distinctly retro vibe. Elegant visuals, a Hermannesque score and sophisticated costumes all contribute to the nostalgic mood, while modern devices like fitness apps and Siri are playfully incorporated into its narrative. A drawn-out second half, though, does make the film feel at least 20 minutes too long.
Read our full review of Decision To Leave.
The movie: Baz Luhrmann’s biopic of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll spans 30 years of Elvis Aaron Presley’s tragically curtailed life, from formative early encounters with gospel and rhythm & blues music to his untimely death from heart disease at the age of just 42.
Our verdict: A trad but terrifically enjoyable musical biopic with swagger to spare, and a star-making central performance from Austin Butler. Luhrmann is one of cinema’s great, sincere showmen and he tackles the Elvis story with typically exuberant aplomb, striking just the right balance of bombast and character beats. It’ll leave you all shook up.
Read our full review of Elvis.
The movie: French actor Charlotte Le Bon makes her directorial debut with this adaptation of Bastien Vivès’ bande dessinée Une Soeur, about a 13-year old Bastien and 16-year-old Chloe, who share a sexual awakening summer romance while holidaying with their families on the Manitoba beauty spot.
Our verdict: Shot in full-frame, sun-kissed soft-focus, Le Bon’s bittersweet ode to young love is a nostalgic and effortlessly charming two-hander, with a pair of perfectly judged performances from the age-mismatched leads. Remarkably assured behind the camera, Le Bon locates gently spooky overtones that payoff with haunting consequences. Up there with The Lost Daughter and Booksmart as the best actor-turned-director debuts in recent memory.
The movie: A wannabe cartoonist drops out of high school and impulsively moves to the city. Having found dirt-cheap accommodation in a sweltering basement, he strikes up a friendship with a volatile loner who used to work in comic books in the hope he will help him follow in the footsteps of his artistic heroes.
Our verdict: Directed by Owen Kline, son of actor Kevin and a protégé of the Safdie brothers, this rough-and-ready rite-of-passage comedy appears to have a direct line to the scrappy energy of early 1970s cinema. Grainy Super 16mm photography gives it a hand-made quality akin to a film school short, while an extended farcical set-piece set around a calamitous Christmas dinner ends things on a high. As funny as Funny Pages is, though, it has a sad pathos that gives every laugh a tinge of tragic despair.
Read our full review of Funny Pages.
The movie: In early 2000s Iran, a former soldier turned construction worker is murdering sex workers in the belief he is doing God’s holy work. Frustrated by the authorities’ lackadaisical attitude, reporter Rahimi (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) makes it her mission to bring this opportunistic serial killer to justice.
Our verdict: Reminiscent of Zodiac, Manhunter and the 1967 film adaption of In Cold Blood, Ali Abbasi’s fact-based crime thriller is a grimly compelling procedural that starkly sets out the toxicity of zealotry fuelled by misogyny. Making a fictionalized, composite female character so central to its plotline is problematic, as are the graphic scenes depicting violence against women. For the most part, though, this is a clinical, angry slice of filmmaking that takes an entire society to task for its heartless complicity.
Read our full review of Holy Spider.
The movie: Said Roustayi’s dense family drama weaves a complex tapestry of tradition and the struggle for a better life in modern day Tehran. Leila has a plan to lift her four layabout brothers out of poverty by opening a shop – easy enough if it weren’t for their stubbornly unhelpful father and Trump’s economy-tanking Tweets.
Our verdict: Possessing the ability to grip like a great stage story, and managing to whip along at pace despite clocking in at nearly 3hrs, Roustayi’s arresting way with dialogue is matched only by his colourful and believably tight-knit cast. Like a great Asghar Farhadi morality play, but funnier.
The movie: Part concert film, part psychedelic art installation, part elliptical account of the major stages in David Bowie’s artistic evolution, Moonage Daydream defies documentary convention to create something thrillingly unique in the space.
Our verdict: Narratively, there’s just enough of a throughline for those with even the bare minimum of background biographical info to keep up with what can generously be called a story here. But where the film really sings (literally) is the stunning remastered performance footage, remixed in multi-channel surround sound from Bowie’s original stems. It’s like hearing Bowie anew.
Read our full review of Moonage Daydream.
Return To Seoul
The movie: A young woman who was born in Korea, adopted as a child and raised by a white couple in France returns to the country of her birth to reconnect with her roots. Over a number of years she forms an attachment to the father she has never known while trying to get in touch with the mother who gave her up.
Our verdict: Low-key, naturalistic and resolutely unemphatic, Davy Shou’s portrait of cultural dislocation doesn’t set out to win the viewer’s affection any more than its heroine does. Slowly, though, it grows on you, avoiding easy epiphanies and pat resolutions in its search for a deeper meaning and resonance. As Frédérique, aka Freddie, Park Ji-min gives us a protagonist who is prickly, spiteful and generally pretty exasperating. That we end up falling for her regardless is a testament to the film’s capacity to beguile.
Triangle Of Sadness
The movie: A glamorous social influencer and her model boyfriend are offered a free cruise on a luxury yacht. Their fellow passengers are a rogue’s gallery of Russian oligarchs, arms dealers and tech nerds. When the ship capsizes and they are stranded on a desert island, though, wealth and privilege count for nothing.
Our verdict: Darkly funny, narratively daring and cuttingly satirical, Ruben Östlund’s follow-up to his Palme d’Or-winning The Square is every bit as pointed as the geometrical polygon in its title. Not since Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life has so much puke been spewed in the service of comedy, while the ideological divisions between Woody Harrelson’s boozy captain, the yacht’s obsequious crew members and its pampered clientele makes it resemble nothing so much as Downton Abbey At Sea.
Read our full review of Triangle Of Sadness.
Apart from Elvis (out in the UK and US on 24 June), none of the films mentioned in this article currently have a UK or US release date. For more coverage from Cannes 2022, check out our review of Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up, through that link.