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12 Films You Need to Watch Out for at Cannes

A still from The Story of My Wife. Photo: Csata Hanna

If 2020 was the year in which the festival went virtual, 2021 is poised to be the year in which in-person events make a roaring comeback. From the Tilda Swinton–starring Memoria to the zany-looking Adam Driver musical Annette, this year’s festival is packed with attention-grabbing films. We may not all make it to the Riviera, but here are 12 to watch out for.

The French Dispatch

A year after it was set to bow at Cannes, Wes Anderson’s ode to eccentric journalists working in 20th-century France finally arrives in all its symmetrical, pastel-hued glory. It’ll be worth watching for the cast alone, which includes Timothée Chalamet, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton.


The announcement that the festival would open with a sweeping, surreal musical directed by Leos Carax and starring Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver sent the industry into a frenzy. The pairs play a singer and a stand-up comic whose lives are upended by the birth of their child.

Red Rocket

Beloved for his woozy visuals and heart-wrenching storytelling in Tangerine (2015) and The Florida Project (2017), Sean Baker returns with this pitch-black comedy.

A Hero

Amir Jadidi in A Hero Photo: Courtesy Amazon Studios

Double Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi (2011’s A Separation and 2016’s The Salesman) has audiences waiting with bated breath for his latest suspenseful drama. It features Iranian mainstays Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, and Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy, as well as the director’s daughter, Sarina.

Paris, 13th District

Credit: ©Shanna Besson

Four friends and sometime lovers (Lucie Zhang, Makita Samba, Noémie Merlant, and Jehnny Beth) populate Palme d’Or recipient Jacques Audiard’s examination of modern relationships. Shot in luminous black and white on the streets and rooftops of the French capital, it’ll make you swoon.


Photo: Courtesy of IFC Films

Fans of Paul Verhoeven’s gleefully twisted Elle (2016) shouldn’t miss the divisive Dutch auteur’s audacious follow-up: a thriller with Virginie Efira as a nun in the 17th century who performs miracles amid a devastating plague. A new arrival at the convent, however, provides distraction.

Mothering Sunday

Credit: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classic

Based on the 2016 Graham Swift novella, Mothering Sunday is set on a single day in 1924 in which a maid, Jane (played by Odessa Young), has the day off. Meanwhile, her employers (Colin Firth and Olivia Colman) are attending a celebration, which just so happens to mark the engagement of Jane’s lover (played by Josh O’Connor). The script was adapted by playwright Alice Birch (Normal People, Succession) and directed by French filmmaker Eva Husson.

Bergman Island

In this Mia Hansen-Løve production, Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps star as an American filmmaking couple who have retreated to the Baltic Sea island of Fårö in order to soak up inspiration from Ingmar Bergman, who lived and died on the island and shot many of his most iconic films there. Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie also star in this long-gestating film, which will compete for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest honour.


Photo: Courtesy of Neon

In Memoria, Tilda Swinton (also an executive producer on the film) stars as a Scottish woman who begins to notice strange nocturnal sounds while she’s visiting her sister in Colombia. The film was written and directed by Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul — who won the Palme d’Or in 2010 — and it marks his first time shooting outside Thailand. “People imagine things and have a fear,” Weerasethakul has said about the inspiration for the film. “The movie is about this, waiting for something you don’t know.”


Photo: Courtesy of Neon

Director Julia Ducournau’s follow-up to Raw (her debut horror film about a vegetarian at vet school), Titane stars French actors Natalie Boyer and Vincent Lindon. The synopsis is vague but compelling: a young man is apprehended at the airport and claims to be a child who disappeared many years ago. Not much else is known about the film or plot at this point, but Neon has already snapped it up for distribution.

The Story of My Wife

Photo: Csata Hanna

From director Ildikó Enyedi, The Story of My Wife is a 1920s-set adaptation of the Hungarian novel by Milan Fust, first published in 1942 but only translated into English in the 1980s. The plot is loosely based on the tale of the Flying Dutchmen and involves a sea captain who bets his friend that he will marry the next woman to walk through the door of the tavern where he is drinking. That woman is Lizzy, played here by Léa Seydoux. Enyedi has described her first encounter with the book as one of the “decisive moments of my teenage years” and her film as “a love letter to all the wonderfully imperfect men.”

Jane by Birkin

Actor, singer-songwriter, fashion muse — there are few roles that Jane Birkin hasn’t played in her six-decade career. But with the premiere of the documentary Jane by Birkin, the 74-year-old style icon is showing an entirely new side of herself: an intimate window into her enduring appeal directed by her daughter, actor and musician Charlotte Gainsbourg. While details of the film remain largely under wraps, reports suggest it traces three years in Birkin’s life as she looks back across her career, as well as her relationship with the French music legend, and Charlotte’s father, Serge Gainsbourg. Given her taste for auteur-led, avant-garde cinema, don’t be surprised if Gainsbourg’s film turns out to be something more offbeat than it sounds on the tin.

Read Next: Regional Filmmakers Kaouther Ben Hania and Sameh Alaa Join Short Film Jury at Cannes

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