Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers.
Big Hollywood dramas cause a splash at the summer’s most glamorous film festivals, like Cannes and Venice. However, any proper cinephile knows it is essential to keep an eye on the buzzy movies coming from elsewhere around the world. As award season approaches, here are the 10 best international film contenders to watch.
Winner of the Golden Lion Prize at Venice Film Festival, this adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s autobiographical novel tells one one woman’s journey to get abortion when it was still illegal in 1960s France. A bright young student with a promising future, Anne resolves to overcome shame, pain and the possibility of prison to finish her studies. Directed by Audrey Diwan, it stars Anamaria Vartolomei, Luana Bajrami, Louise Orry-Diquero, Kacey Mottet Klein, Louise Chevillotte, Pio Marmaï and Sandrine Bonnaire.
From Academy Award-winning director Paolo Sorrentino, this Italian drama centers on a young man in 1980s Naples and his experiences with heartbreak and liberation after being saved from a freak accident by soccer legend Diego Maradona. It stars Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Luisa Ranieri and Teresa Saponangelo.
Pedro Almodóvar’s newest drama stops on the intersecting paths of two expectant single mothers who meet in a hospital room. While the middle-aged woman does not regret her pregnancy, the younger of the two is scared. Together they form a strong bond as they prepare to confront motherhood. It stars Penélope Cruz and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón.
A black-and-white, semi-autobiographical film from Kenneth Branagh, Belfast scopes in on the life of a working class family during the tumultuous 1960s. The story of love, laughter and loss in one boy’s childhood in the Northern Ireland capital first captivated audiences at the Telluride Film Festival. It stars Jamie Dornan, Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, and Jude Hill.
Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival, Michelangelo Frammartino’s drama chronicles the adventure of the Piedmont Speleological Group who, in 1961, explore caves unknown to man. It stars Paolo Cossi, Jacopo Elia, Denise Trombin and Nicola Lanza.
Actor-director Mélanie Laurent’s portrait of women enmeshed in a medical system that misunderstands and fears them takes place in 19th-century France. It follows Eugénie Cléry, a free-spirited young woman whose wit and independence will not be tolerated by her father, not to mention she is visited by spirits of the dead. He forces her into a neurological clinic run by Professor Jean-Martin Charcot, a man more showman than scientist who is orchestrating a grand ball that preys upon his patients’ fantasies. It stars Laurent, Lou de Laâge, Grégoire Bonnet, Benjamin Voisin and Emmanuelle Bercot.
Writer-director Julia Ducournau’s body horror thriller was called the most shocking film of 2021 by the BBC. Living up to its reputation, Titane is about a mentally distrubed woman who becomes pregnant after having sex with a car. It premiered at Cannes Film Festival, where Ducournau became the second female director to win the converted Palme d’Or. The film stars Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier and Laïs Salameh.
Set over the course of four years, The Worst Person in the World follows Julie, a young woman struggling to find her career path and navigate her love life and is forced to take a realistic look at who she really is. The dark rom-com comes from writer-director Joachim Trier and stars Renate Reinsve, who won an acting award at Cannes for her performance, and Anders Danielsen Lie.
Nelly recently lost her grandmother and so she must help her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. Ditching her duties, Nelly explores the house and the surrounding woods and meets a girl her same age building a treehouse. Written and directed by Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Céline Sciamma, it stars Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Stéphane Varupenne, Nina Meurisse and Margo Abascal.
Winner of the Gran Prix at Cannes, A Hero centers on Rahim, who is in prison because of a debt he could not repay. He tried to convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint while on a two-day leave, but things don’t go as planned. From writerd-rector Asghar Farhadi, it stars Amir Jadidi and Mohsen Tanabandeh.
Photography by: Courtesy Sony Pictures