Directed by Todd Field. A distorting lens of a film that allows the viewer to make what they want of Cate Blanchett’s untrustworthy, possibly abusive conductor. Virtually every scene has generated debate.
9. Anatomy of a Fall
Directed by Justine Triet. Sandra Hüller is tremendous as a German-born, France-based novelist accused of killing her male partner in this knotty, Palme d’Or-winning delve into the French legal system, the nature of truth and the institution of marriage.
8. Holy Spider
Directed by Ali Abbasi. Between 2000 and 2001 Saeed Hanaei, a real-life sexually motivated murderer, strangled at least 16 prostitutes in the holy Iranian city of Mashhad. An antidote to the sickening vogue for “hot serial killers” told through the fierce gaze of the Cannes-winning actor Zar Amir Ebrahimi.
7. The Beasts
Directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen. Galician locals are not impressed when two eco-minded sophisticates, Denis Ménochet and Marina Foïs, set up an eco-friendly farm in this white-knuckle thriller.
Directed by Lukas Dhont. Two preteen boys drift apart with tragic consequences. It hardly matters that one can predict where the Belgian director’s second feature is headed; an indelible emotional impact is assured.
5. Past Lives
Directed by Celine Song. Hugely touching, elegantly shot drama following a Korean-American woman as she welcomes a childhood sweetheart to New York 24 years after their last meeting. It doesn’t go where you think.
4. Saint Omer
Directed by Alice Diop. Diop re-creates the 2016 trial of a Senegalese woman who admitted to leaving her daughter to drown, claiming she was under the influence of sorcery. Tremendous performances by Kayije Kagame and Guslagie Malanda reinvent the myth of Medea.
Directed by Ira Sachs. Franz Rogowski is magnetic as a solipsistic lothario who deserts poor Ben Whishaw for misused Adèle Exarchopoulos. Moves at a breathtaking pace towards a queasy conclusion.
Directed by Sofia Coppola. Cailee Spaeny brings quiet intensity to the role of Priscilla Presley in a film that, investigating that marriage, allows Coppola to exhibit all her gifts for suave empathy.
1. May December
Directed by Todd Haynes. Todd Haynes returns to his edgy roots with an instant camp classic inspired by Mary Kay LeTourneau, the American teacher who was jailed in 1987 for having sex with an underage student. Julianne Moore plays the LeTourneau avatar Gracie, the mother of three grown-up children with her husband and former victim Joe (a revelatory Charles Melton). Yes, this really happened. Natalie Portman plays a famous actor who comes to stay with the family to prepare for her role as Gracie in an upcoming movie. Soapy histrionics follow, but Melton’s humanity counterpoints the enjoyable telenovela. This tremendous entertainment apes the thrill of a tabloid cycle and simultaneously lampoons its own trashy magnetism.
Have we seen the best film of 2024?
Maybe. Who knows? It’s always the case that many films premiering at the big festivals don’t make it to cinemas until the following year. Tár, Close, Holy Spider and The Beasts, from this year’s top 10, were first screened in 2022. So what will occupy that space in a year’s time? Here are five likely competitors we’ve seen on the circuit.
- Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist finds the Japanese director of Drive My Car probing environmental issues.
- Wim Wenders returns to fiction form with the charming Perfect Days.
- Sean Price Williams’s blotchy, mad The Sweet East casts a skewed eye at outsider America.
- But the two hottest competitors are Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things, a psychosexual fable; and The Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer’s bleak adaptation of Martin Amis’s Auschwitz tale. Bet on top 10 finishes.