Brandon Shillingford, Contributing Writer
Almost two months ago, I submitted a request to attend the 72nd annual “3 Days in Cannes” event, a program designed for young cinephiles to experience the world’s most prestigious and glamorous film festival in its entirety for three magical, breathtaking and stressful days on the Côte d’Azur.
I like to think of myself as a critic, or a reporter or a freelancer, I don’t even know at this point. The fact of the matter is, I went to Cannes. I didn’t get to see everything on my list; I was only there for the first three days. But the films I was lucky enough to catch were remarkable.
Here are a few reviews of some of the most notable films that screened at this year’s festival.
In director Ladj Ly’s feature debut, based off his 2017 short film of the same name, “Les Miserables” shows an anti-crime unit of Paris’ police department in peril after one of the officers shoots a child and it’s captured on video.
At a little more than 90 minutes, Ly is able to create an incredibly uncomfortable sense of claustrophobia through mostly handheld camerawork, amplifying a sense of chaos that really puts the audience in the characters’ shoes.
Ly does a phenomenal job building a palpable sense of danger throughout the film. The audience doesn’t get a chance to catch its breath between the numerous violent scenes. The climax takes all the building tension and lifts it to new and terrifying heights.
Where “Les Miserables” falters is in its depiction of the three leads. Throughout the film, you follow Stephane, new to the force. The audience sees his squad mates’ brutality through his eyes. Ly tries to build a backstory for Stephane, but there isn’t enough time for it to truly resonate. He’s the “good guy,” but that’s really it.
“Les Miserables” is a painfully relevant and thought-provoking film. What it lacks in complexity, it makes up for with sheer poignancy.
“Sorry We Missed You”
After 60-plus years in the industry, Ken Loach, one of the world’s greatest filmmakers, returns to Cannes with his newest feature, “Sorry We Missed You.” This marks three years since his last film “I, Daniel Blake” won the “Palme d’Or,” the festival’s highest award.
Loach’s latest film focuses on Ricky and Abbi Turner and their two kids, Seb and Lisa Jane. As their financial situation becomes more dire by the day, the Turner family begins to fall apart.
While “Sorry We Missed You” isn’t Loach at his most subtle or flashy — nor does it have the rawness and spirit of “I, Daniel Blake” — it doesn’t necessarily have to. Loach has always been a master at examining the life of the everyman, depicting unordinary lives in a way that can be hilarious in one moment, and in a split second, turn tragic.
There are several of those heart-wrenching moments when you’ve spent so much time with the Turners that all you want to see is them thriving. But they just keep sinking deeper and deeper into this pit, and their place in the world will keep them there.
Once they start to fall into desperation and despair due to their loss of control, you feel that heartache, to the point where it’s uncomfortable.
In a lesser filmmaker’s hands, “Sorry We Missed You” could feel like the director preaching or talking down to their audience. However, there isn’t a second where Loach makes you feel as if you’re watching something that isn’t important. It’s a thoughtful film that reflects on capitalism’s effect on the working class and slides seamlessly into Loach’s powerful filmography.
“The Staggering Girl”
Luca Guadagnino’s star-studded short film is, in part, an art film with impeccable attention to detail and style. But the other, much less interesting, part is a 40-minute ad for Valentino Couture.
The short stars Julianne Moore as Francesca, a struggling writer from New York, who begins to hear and see strange voices and visions from her past. Moore and the rest of the cast, which includes names like Kyle MacLachlan, Mia Goth and KiKi Layne, gives great performances. But none are enough to distract from a dull and needlessly convoluted story.
“The Staggering Girl” doesn’t follow any sort of narrative through-line or basic story structure. It takes the viewer on a sort of voyeuristic journey through Francesca’s life as she attempts to find any sort of meaning to her life and what she’s doing with it.
The film is a spectacular technical achievement, with breathtaking costume and production design, and it’s shot on immaculate 35 mm film. But once you look past its stylish exterior, there really isn’t anything of depth or meaning.
Unlike Guadagnino’s past films like “Suspiria” and “Call Me by Your Name,” there’s nothing of value to latch onto, like complex characters or a compelling story. Once you’ve made it to the end of the film, which is somehow incredibly anticlimactic while being totally ridiculous, all you’re left with is a shallow advertisement for some really pretty clothes.
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