Generalising about European cinema is a fool's errand. Countless films never cross national borders. Many films only have a theatrical life on the festival circuit. Some of the continent's biggest box-office hits (Les Bronzes 3, Natale A New York, and (T)Raumschiff Surprise - Periode 1 for example) barely register on any critic's radar. Seeking coherence in such a random picture is not easy.

But the dominance of high-profile international hits among this year's European Film Awards nominations suggests the European Academy is managing to pull off the tricky task of honouring both artistic excellence and box-office success.

The uniting factor in the nominated films appears to be a desire to confront the legacy of the recent past - whether it is the national grief surrounding the death of Princess Diana in The Queen, the legends constructed around the life of Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose or the truth about life in Communist Romania in 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days.

While US cinema ties itself in knots trying to devise an immediate response to the ethical dimensions of the war on terror, European cinema seems to want to take the longer view, letting the dust settle before taking a more measured response to a past situation, such as coming of age in a changing Iran in the French co-production Persepolis or the tyranny of Idi Amin in the UK-produced The Last King Of Scotland.

The European Film Academy (EFA) is perennially drawn to politically engaged drama and that is true of virtually all the major nominated films. It has almost became a tradition that the Academy voters will reward a film that illuminates the present by examining the past (The Lives Of Others in 2006) or the brooding legacy of the past at loose in the modern world (Hidden in 2005).

On that basis, 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days must be the front runner for the EFA best film prize, a fitting trophy for Cristian Mungiu's drama to add to its Cannes Palme d'Or and the Hollywood World Award.

BEST FILM nominations by screen international critics

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, Rom)

"A deceptively simple tale carrying a tremendous wallop, Cristian Mungiu's third feature 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days leads the new Romanian cinema into this year's Cannes competition with flying colours."

Dan Fainaru, May 2007

La Vie En Rose (Olivier Dahan, Fr-Czech-UK)

"Producer Alain Goldman and writer-director Olivier Dahan largely succeed with La Vie En Rose, a vigorous and flamboyant biopic of singer Edith Piaf that should be a standard-setter for future European productions."

Benny Crick, Feb 2007

The Queen (Stephen Frears, UK)

"Despite an occasional tendency towards mannerism and caricature in the early scenes, Stephen Frears steers a deft line between satire and sycophancy, creating a work that is ultimately complex and moving."

Geoffrey Macnab, Sept 2006

The Edge Of Heaven (Fatih Akin, Ger-Turk)

"Though it is far below the level of his last film, Head-On, which won the Golden Bear in Berlin in 2003, Fatih Akin's new film, once it comes together at the end and finally defeats the shagginess of his script, is a solid if uneven piece of work."

Peter Brunette, May 2007

Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, France)

"Fears that (Satrapi's) often hard-hitting graphic novel Persepolis would become cutesified and watered down in this feature-length animated adaptation are mostly unfounded... the film is remarkably faithful to the spirit and the black-and-white look of the artist's epic coming-of-age tetralogy."

Lee Marshall, May 2007

The Last King Of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, UK)

"Idi Amin, as played here magnificently by Forest Whitaker, is charm personified, as appealing for his insecurities and fears as he is terrifying for them. For all its awkward blend of fact and fiction, the film's glimpse into the soul of such a man is perhaps more germane today than it was 30 years ago."

Mike Goodridge, Sept 2006.