With one official screening day to go, the critical consensus on this year's Berlinale competition might be summed up as "good but not outstanding".

Opinions on the line-up ranged from Italian critic Fabio Ferzetti's "disappointing", through German critic Margaret Koehler's comment that this year's selection included "a lot of films that are neither good nor bad", to the more upbeat assessment of Nick James, editor of British film monthly Sight and Sound, who believes that "the competition really picked up after a shaky start' almost as if there was a plan to backload the selection so as to bring the serious auteurs in towards the end".

These included Ken Loach, whose Glasgow-set Pakistani-boy-meets-Catholic girl drama Ae Fond Kiss, was a definite return to form for the 67-year-old British director, and Eric Rohmer, whose complex historical espionage drama Triple Agent was considered interesting, if not a career highpoint.

Even the most cynical festival junkies agreed that Richard Linklater's graceful second-time-lucky love story Before Sunset - a film that, in James' words, "succeeds in being romantic and sceptical about romanticism at the same time" - has been one of the highlights so far.

Other well-liked competition titles were Patrice Leconte's finely choreographed odd-couple drama Intimate Strangers, Annete K. Olesen's tough and unpredictable moral tragedy In Your Hands (though this split European critics along a geographical fault-line, with most northerners going for its Dogme doggedness and many Mediterraneans finding it contrived).

Greek auteur Theo Angelopoulos' elegaic historical epic The Weeping Meadow divided critics. For Koehler it was one of the highlights of the festival, but others considered it to be overlong and inscrutable. Screen's Dan Fainaru suggested that it should have screened out of competition, as it was "so different from all the other competition films that the jury is going to have a hard time making comparisons".

The Charlize-Theron-goes-ugly serial killer biopic Monster generated strong, but not unanimous support, with some finding it "overhyped" or a "one-performance trick", while Daniel Burman's Lost Embrace, a bittersweet comedy of displaced identities and lost fathers in an Argentina disoriented by the country's economic slump, was also popular; for Ferzetti, this was "an extremely generous film with shades of Woody Allen and Nanni Moretti".

Sivlia Chang's 20:30:4-0 was a gentle, original and well scripted women's film with pan-Asian appeal thanks to its three famous leads - but may struggle outside the territory.

Cedric Kahn's edgy road thriller Feux Rouges (Red Lights) was much admired, and Jean-Pierre Darroussin was being widely tipped for a Best Actor prize for his intense performance as a weak man slowly going off the rails in the course of one night's drive into the heart of darkness, which turned out to be somewhere near Bordeaux.

Theron's rivals in the Best Actress stakes include newcomer Michela Cescon, who was the best thing about Matteo Garrone's dark, imperfect but original anorexia drama First Love, and another first-timer, Catalina Sandino Moreno, who plays a drug mule in Joshua Marston's strong and well-liked Colombian odyssey Maria Full Of Grace.

Among the low-points was John Boorman's apartheid drama Country Of My Skull, which was generally agreed to be a flaccid and conventional take on a worthy subject.

Romuald Karmakar's home entry Night Songs was considered to be well below competition standard by many critics, and generated one of the tetchiest press conferences of the festival so far, with the director accusing journalists of being unable to understand his brand of filmmaking because they watch too many American films.

The other German entry, Fatih Akin's culture-clash drama Head On, set between Hamburg and Istanbul, was better liked, with Nick James placing it in his competition top two for its "real swticheroo plot, which takes us from terror to comedy and back without missing a beat".

In the Forum section, the two sequels to Hong Kong cops-and-robbers thriller Infernal Affairs united arthouse and action fans; the consensus was that Infernal Affairs 2 is the best of the trilogy.

The consensus on Eytan Fox's Panorama opener Walk On Water was that it was intriguing but over-ambitious.

Robert Lepage's Far Side Of The Moon, a family drama set against the background of the space race, generated the most critical buzz of the Panorama titles.

Berlin regular Margaret Koehler rates the 54th Biennale well below last year's romp - "but then again, last year was the strongest Berlinale for a very long time".