The 10 Best Reviewed Movies of Cannes 2019

Movie critics and the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival do not always coincide in their opinions about the movies that premiere in the Croisette. Last year Jia’s “Ash is Purest White” and Ceylan’s “Wild Pear Tree,” though appraised, left Palais de Festivals with no award, while “Burning” only won the FIPRESCI award, even with the highest rate ever.

As we expect to see Cannes marvels in theaters in the next months, it’s interesting to study how critics’ reviews juxtapose with Jury’s awards. Reading every day what was written in the most respected cinema sites, such as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire and The Guardian, left me rather astonished; for example, when I saw the Best Director Award given to the Dardenne brothers, after all the mediocre to bad reviews that “Young Ahmed” had received. Or Loach’s and Tarantino’s films leaving without a special mention.

This is Cannes, love it or leave it. This year’s Jury, with Iňarritứ for president and some of the world’s most eminent directors (Rohrwacher, Lanthimos, Pawlikowski and Campillo) among its members, had their reasons for each of their choices. It is up to us to decide what side we are on when we are left alone facing the big screen in the dark.


10. The Whistlers – Corneliu Porumboiu

On the contrary, Porumboiu needed seven Cannes awards to get a nomination for the main competition. And although he got good reviews, he left this time with no award.

Porumboiu sets his neo-noir screenplay on Gomera island of the Canarias. A Romanian police officer who is a whistleblower for the mafia goes to la Gomera to learn the whistling language that natives use, so that back in Romania, he will be able to find where 30 million Euros are hidden.

Some critics praised the “knotty, twisty, nifty plot” (The Guardian) whose “accomplishment lies within what it says about that agreeable flow” (Indiewire), while others, though admitting it was a good work, mentioned that it was “not exactly the same as being intellectually satisfying and rich the way Porumboiu’s earlier work was. They were closer to profound; this is just clever” (The Hollywood Reporter).


9. Atlantique – Mati Diop

Here lies the core of the 72nd Cannes International Film Festival – its social imprint. The nomination of young Mati Diop, a woman of African origin and the offspring of an artistic African family, and the niece of Djibril Diop Mambéty.

Mati seems to be the incarnate of the prototype of alternative director: she goes back to her country of origin, back to sub-Saharan Africa, to tell a story of immigration. Narrated in Wolof, she lets the subjects speak of their stories about leaving the country out of need, with the vague hope of a better future somewhere far away.

Diop has worked as an actor with Claire Denis, who fully supported her young collaborator on her efforts behind the camera. Diop’s very first feature, which was entered directly to main competition without passing the threshold that’s called ‘Un Certain Regard,’ was warmly received by critics who, though acknowledging certain deficiencies in the film, were deeply moved by its “seductive mystery.” The Jury seemed to appreciate the emotional screenwriting of Diop and awarded her with the Grand Prize of the Festival.


8. Dylda – Kantemir Balagov

The second time in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ section, Russian director Kantemir Balagov won the Best Director award with a historical drama that focuses on an intensively dramatic and significant moment of modern Russian – rather Soviet – history.

In 1943, the Nazi troops who had invaded U.S.S.R. sieged the city of Leningrad, a siege that lasted more than 18 months and revealed the heroic nature of its inhabitants, who endured all kind of inconveniences but didn’t let the Nazis enter the city.

As the storyline on IMDb notes,  “26-year-old Kantemir Balagov follows TESNOTA, winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, with a powerful period drama,” which was characterized as “incredibly bleak” and “rigorous and indulgent.”


7. The Climb – Michael Angelo Covino

Not all ‘Un Certain Regard’ competition movies caught the attention of critics who rushed into the Palais to watch the main competition entries. Some did. The movies in this section of the festival, the purpose of which is to discover new talents and make them known to larger audiences, may result in pleasant, unexpected surprises.

One of this kind seem to be “The Climb,” Covino’s first feature, a story about two best friends who share a very strong bond until one sleeps with the other’s girlfriend. It was mostly praised for its ingenious screenplay, its comic elements, and the natural acting of its protagonists (Calvino being the one of two friends), where at the same time the screenplay refers to an almost dancing camera.


6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino

Maybe the most anticipated film in Cannes competition this year, Tarantino’s ninth and alleged last film has surely gained the audience’s Palme, if we take into consideration IMDb’s rating. The “crazy bravura of Tarantino’s film-making” (The Guardian) results in a film whose speed, colorfulness, vividness, and action overwhelms the viewer, and nobody denies it. However, some critics doubted whether the film could reach its goal: to depict Hollywood’s ‘spleen’ and the collapse of its age of innocence, which coincided with the assassination of Sharon Tate.

The premier took place in the same theater as “Pulp Fiction,” the Palme d’Or-winning movie that made him internationally-known 25 years ago. What a nice celebration could it be to return to the States with a second Palme in this anniversary. The Jury, however, decided differently from the critics and the audience, and Quentin left Cannes empty-handed.