10 Indie Movies You'll Want to See This Year
These movies that premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival should be on your radar.
Ask anyone privileged enough to have been there, yet still bold enough to complain: This was, by any conceivable metric, a terribly unexceptional Cannes Film Festival. Vanishingly few trees could be pulled up in the competition slate, where auteurial powerhouses were seemingly caught in their flop eras; the adjacent strands were hardly better, variously presenting disappointments from well-loved filmmakers and indistinct debuts from promising future stars.
Nevertheless, for all of the damp squibs, the fest wasn't a total dud. Though even the most popular premieres proved divisive, some consensus emerged: Lukas Dhont's Close, a ravishing coming-of-ager about two 13-year-old Dutch boys in the wake of an unimaginable tragedy, proved popular among a plurality of critics, as did Aftersun, Charlotte Wells' exceptional feature debut starring Paul Mescal as a dad taking his 11-year-old on a budget holiday.
Movies from big-hitters like James Gray (Armageddon Time), David Cronenberg (Crimes of the Future), and Kelly Reichardt (Showing Up) were similarly well regarded, if not considered among their best work yet. With many of the movies on show expected to release at home over the next year, this is our pick of the crop that you need to watch out for.
Release date: TBA
Director: Charlotte Wells
Cast: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall
Perhaps the greatest fumble of this festival was that Wells, whose Aftersun was unequivocally the best on show despite premiering in the smallest strand, missed out on the Camera d'Or, the award given for the best directorial debut. Nevertheless picked up by A24 for distribution in the US, Paul Mescal's first hype-warranting role since Normal People positions him as a young dad taking his 11-year-old kid, Sophie (an incandescent, absurdly mature Frankie Corio), on a budget holiday. It's stunningly shot, edited, and performed, a montage of unreliable childhood memories—the kind we keep with us for a lifetime.
Release date: TBA
Director: James Gray
Cast: Michael Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong
Armageddon Time ranks among the dregs in Gray's filmography, so its inclusion here is a testament to two things: firstly, just how terrific a filmmaker the 53-year-old is; secondly, that the bar in competition this year was so low. This is a deeply autobiographical, deeply New Yorkian melodrama: Gray's kid facsimile, Paul (Michael Banks Repeta), is a precocious kid in the ‘80s suburbs, perpetually in trouble with his parents (Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong, the latter a touch miscast) as a big-headed anti-authoritarian. The only one who can get through to him is his grandpa, Aaron, played by the ever-delightful Anthony Hopkins. More disarray comes when he makes friends with a similarly sure-headed Black boy, Johnny (Jaylin Webb). Emergent from this is a spirited web of class consciousness, liberal bootstrapping, and intraracial, Reaganist myopia; meaningful stuff, even if tone finds itself chucked in a blender.
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Bae Doona, IU
Kore-eda does what he's best at in Broker, a rogue's tale conceived on the margins of South Korean society. There's a system in the country called the "baby box," allowing reluctant parents to put up their kids for adoption anonymously, thereby side-stepping taboo. Two men (Parasite's Song Kang-ho and Peninsula's Gang Dong-won, both terrific) take advantage of this by, well, stealing babies deposited in said boxes to sell them on the adoption black market, thus being the eponymous brokers. One mother, wracked with guilt for having abandoned her wean, joins them on a road trip to find the right adoptive parents, and so an unconventional, patchwork family forms. This isn't quite the Palme-winning Shoplifters, which plays largely to the same tune—atypical broods formed of societal outcasts, just trying to get by—but it's sweetly affecting nevertheless.
Release date: TBA
Director: Lukas Dhont
Cast: Eden Dambrine, Gustav de Waele, Émilie Dequenne
Dhont's debut feature, Girl, polarized audiences as a well-intended, empathetic, but cripplingly flawed take on the trans coming-of-age experience. With the Jury Prize-winning Close, Dhont presents another bildungsroman, albeit one closer to home, and all the better for it: This focuses on two boys in their early teens so inseparable as to be mistaken as young lovers by their classmates (you hardly need to read between the lines). Their tight bond is torn asunder by an unspeakable tragedy in the first act, and your eyes will stream thereafter. A slam-dunk of a sophomore picture.
Release date: July 7
Director: Marie Kreutzer
Cast: Vicky Krieps, Florian Teichtmeister, Katharina Lorenz
Vicky Krieps, the Luxembourgish actress best known in the US for Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread, had a stellar Cannes with two stand-out premieres. First came the moving More Than Ever, in which she plays a happily married 33 year old with a terminal disease; later Corsage, the Marie Antoinette-esque, subversive period piece recounting, in a sense, the life of beleaguered Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The latter is most affecting, bringing with it favorable comparisons to Pablo Larrain's recent Diana mythology, Spencer. This one, too, finds itself outside of the realm of neat factuality, less concerned with the story of a royal than that of a woman quietly under siege.
Crimes of the Future
Release date: June 3
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Moretnsen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart
This begins with a child eating a plastic waste bin before being suffocated with a pillow by his mother, presumably the expected trigger of much-talked up premiere walkouts that didn't actually happen. Later, Cronenberg makes a belated return to the sanguinary nasties which made his career: Crimes of the Future, already out in theaters, is situated in a dystopia to come in which humankind has evolved past the need for pain, and following the logic of physiological fascination, surgery has become the new sex. Léa Seydoux and Viggo Mortensen are a pair of performance artists who carve one another, erotically, in surgical organ-machines for the pleasure of hushed audiences. Like Cronenberg's Crash, pain and pleasure, exhibition and the voyeur, are interwoven beasts.
Release date: TBA
Director: Owen Kline
Cast: Daniel Zolghadri, Matthew Maher, Miles Emanuel, Marcia Debonis, Michael Townsend Wright
Fans of Uncut Gems will likely fawn over A24's Funny Pages, the directorial debut from Owen Kline (who you'd best know as The Kid in Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale). Produced by the Safdie Brothers, Pages brings back a coterie of ensemble players from the frenetic Sandler-starrer, for a coming-of-ager as juvenile as cock outlines drawn in the margins of school textbooks. Leading is the tremendous Daniel Zolghadri: He plays another precocious teen, Robert, who decides to drop out of high school to pursue his talents as a comic artist. While variously touching and gut-clenchingly funny, it isn't flawless—but my god, is Kline going to make a terrific second picture.
Release date: September TBA
Director: Brett Morgen
Any filmmaker with access to David Bowie's full discography is already on to a winner, and Moonage Daydream—Brett Morgen's kaleidoscopic, maximalist, sweeping docufeature-montage covering Bowie's life and career—is no exception, with its pumping soundscape of pop-rock hits. But here's two hours and 20 minutes that zip by like a rocket ship, darting past rigid conventionality; sometimes a concert film, sometimes a memoir movie, often both all at once. Morgen has put together a treat for fans and Bowie agnostics alike.
Release date: TBA
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Cast: Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, Andre 3000
Another Reichardt slow-burner, following 2019's First Cow, Showing Up was relegated to the final day of the festival, by which point most of the critics in attendance had already left. Those who saw it, however, celebrated it as a typically minimalist, quotidian tour-de-force, with a stirring lead in frequent collaborator Michelle Williams. Continuing on the trend of auto-fiction at this Cannes, Reichardt's eleventh feature film is arguably her most wedded to the self: a lavish character study, Williams' sculptor struggles to make art amid a whirlpool of banal tribulations. The 58-year-old director never misses, and Showing Up is no different.
Triangle of Sadness
Release date: TBA
Director: Ruben Östlund
Cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Woody Harrelson
Östlund's five-year return to Cannes competition following his Palme d'Or winning The Square once again yielded the top prize, joining Francis Ford Coppola, Bille August, and Michael Haneke as the only filmmakers to nab subsequent Palmes. Set on a shipwrecked yacht, Triangle of Sadness is part class satire (Woody Harrelson plays the alcoholic, Marxist captain), part study of social upheaval (Hobbes, eat your heart out), part tongue-poke at the model-cum-influencer economy (Harris Dickinson's a star, baby!). Gloriously bizarre, deliberately ostentatious, and gleefully on the nose, this was the right pick for the big one.