Between Cannes and Venice (which kicks off later this week), Screen tracks the films from the summer festivals with strong word-of-mouth and positive reviews.
Compiled by Screen’s chief critic and reviews editor Fionnuala Halligan.
Aisha (Ire) – premiered at Tribeca
Dir. Frank Berry
Letitia Wright and Josh O’Connor star in this story about an asylum seeker in Ireland’s direct provision system.
Screen’s critic says: “Cut from the same cloth as the work of Ken Loach, this is not the kind of filmmaking that draws attention to itself [but] Berry’s empathetic eye is keen when it comes to subtle details.”
America (Isr-Ger-Czech) – premiered at Karlovy Vary
Dir. Ofir Raul Grazier
A swimming-instructor gets out of his emotional depth in this love triangle drama from the director of international hit The Cakemaker.
Screen’s critic says: “This vibrant-looking majority-Israeli production is the kind of conventional, well-crafted work which usually connects more squarely with audiences than with juries or critics.”
Contact: Beta Cinema
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Fra-Lux-Can-Neth) – premiered at Annecy
Dir. Pierre Foldes
Haruki Murakami’s short stories inspire this surreal directorial debut from composer Pierre Foldes.
Screen’s critic says: “An impressive achievement, a piece of storytelling which balances moments of flighty whimsy against deeper existential questions, marking Foldes as a talent to watch in the world of adult-skewed animation.”
Contact: The Match Factory
Gentle (Hun-Ger) – reviewed at Transilvania (premiered at Sundance)
Dir. Laszlo Csuja, Anna Nemes
An intimate character study set within the world of bodybuilding, starring former world champion bodybuilder Eszter Csonka.
Screen’s critic says: “An immersive, often melancholic, study of the paradoxes of a world where the perfect external look is frequently achieved by ruining the body on the inside through drugs, and where staying in control is paramount.”
Contact: Films Boutique
Good Girl Jane (US) - premiered at Tribeca
Dir. Sarah Elizabeth Mintz
Mintz’s autobiographical debut feature follows a lonely teenager, played by Rain Spencer, heading off the rails. Won Best US Narrative Feature and Best Performance for Spencer at Tribeca.
Screen’s critic says: “Mintz favours handheld camerawork throughout… there is something of Andrea Arnold’s American Honey in the film’s manner and pacing.”
House of Darkness (US) – reviewed at Fantasia (premiered at Santa Barbara)
Dir. Neil LaBute
Gothic thriller starring Justin Long and Kate Bosworth that explores the horrors of modern hook-ups.
Screen’s critic says: “While it’s lacking in subtlety, and perhaps not quite as forward-thinking as it might hope to be, its exploration of modern morality and well-executed horror elements make for a watchable chamber piece.”
Contact: The Syndicate
Huesera (Mex-Peru) – premiered at Tribeca
Dir. Michelle Garza Cervera
Cervera’s Tribeca prize-winning feature debut sees a pregnant woman with a past have a toxic encounter with the supernatural.
Screen’s critic says: “Propelled by a superb central performance by Natalia Solian, the film’s potential excesses are held under tight control as it takes us, like a Mexican riff on Rosemary’s Baby, on a nightmare journey through the dark side of motherhood.”
Contact: XYZ Films
Lakelands (Ire) – premiered at Galway
Dir. Robert Higgins, Patrick McGivney
Small town Irish drama about a lad (Eanna Hardwicke) whose dangerous concussion forces an uncomfortable facing up to his future.
Screen’s critic says: “A sensitive exploration of a young man’s reckoning with his destiny in rural Ireland, Lakelands initially appears to cover some familiar dramatic ground in a seemingly low-stakes narrative, but, in fact, this feels fresh, for both Irish audiences and also niche markets elsewhere.”
Contact: Harp Media
LOLA (Ire-UK) - premiered at Locarno
Dir. Andrew Legge
A machine is able to hear broadcasts from the future in Andrew Legge’s imaginative found-footage feature debut.
Screen’s critic says: “There’s enjoyment to be had watching this what-if found footage feature set in 1941 England as the Second World War reaches its crux. “
Contact: Bankside Films
Medusa Deluxe (UK) – premiered at Locarno
Dir. Thomas Hardiman
Taking place across several floors of a labyrinthine studio building, this begins after a stylist named Mosca has been found, dead and scalped, following a competition for professional hairdressers.
Screen’s critic says: “A luridly-dressed but economically mounted experimental creation staged as a one-take ensemble drama, this brashly confident debut should bring plentiful regard for British writer-director Thomas Hardiman, one of Screen’s 2021 Stars of Tomorrow.”
Contact: New Europe Film Sales
Megalomaniac (Bel) – premiered at Fantasia
Dir. Karim Ouelhaj
Based on real life unsolved case of the Butcher of Mons, a serial killer who slaughtered and dismembered a number of women and left parts of their bodies in bin bags by the road side between 1996 and 1997.
Screen’s critic says: “The film’s malevolent ambience makes it a compelling watch, even when the plot has lost its last semblance of logic.”
Contact: Media Move (International) / XYZ Films (North America)
The Narrow Road (Hong Kong) – premiered at Edinburgh
Dir. Lam Sum
A moving tribute to the hard-working people of Hong Kong is set during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Screen’s critic says: “has the look of a surefire box office hit and awards candidate in Hong Kong and Asian markets”
The Pool (Ger) – premiered at Munich
Dir. Doris Dorrie
A culture war comedy about a women-only swimming pool in Germany.
Screen’s critic says: “Possibly the most skilfully-handled element of Dorrie’s screenplay is that nobody working at, or sitting around, this swimming pool is even remotely sympathetic.”
Contact: Constantin Film
Rule 34 (Bra-Fra) – premiered at Locarno
Dir. Julia Murat
A surprise winner of the Golden Leopard at Locarno, this is a sensually intimate character study of Simone, a multifaceted, thirtyish Black woman (Sol Miranda) in bustling Rio de Janeiro.
Screen’s critic says: “The Locarno success will guarantee plentiful further big-screen exposure for a film which attempts to tackle several topical, hot-button issues simultaneously and is a sure-fire generator of audience discussion and future academic analysis.”
Contact: Esquina Filmes
The Sea Beast (US) – premiered at Annecy
Dir. Chris Williams
Netflix animation about a misunderstood monster from the director of Bolt, Big Hero Six and Moana. Launched on July 8.
Screen’s critic says: “An old-fashioned ripping yarn which pays tribute to generations of monster movies past, showcasing some genuinely dazzling animation while also delivering an unexpectedly sophisticated message.”
Vesper (Lithuania-Fra-Bel) – premiered at Karlovy Vary
Dir. Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper
High-concept dystopian sci-fi fairytale about a young girl in an enchanted forest. Its British cast is led by Eddie Marsan and newcomers Raffiella Chapman and Rosy McEwen.
Screen’s critic says: “Matters ecological are at the heart of this complex world-build: the instability of natural energy supplies drives the drama.”
Winners (UK) – premiered at Edinburgh
Dir. Hassan Nazer
An homage to the fabled — and persecuted — directors of Nazer’s native Iran, a cine-literate piece about an impoverished young boy who stumbles across an Oscar statuette in the dust of remote Padeh Village on the edge of the Kavir desert.
Screen’s critic says: “Ostensibly a film in the vein of Cinema Paradiso — which it references on several occasions — this is a curio for cineastes and festivalgoers, especially given the presence of Reza Naji in a lead role.”