Cannes: Irish Colin Farrell film wins best screenplay award

Prize for the Irish-backed ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’, while ‘The Square’ wins Palme d’Or

The 70th Cannes Film Festival ended on Sunday night with, for the third year in a row, a surprise winner of the Palme d'Or, the festival's most significant award.

Ruben Östlund's The Square, a sprawling, bitterly funny study of the Stockholm art world, took the prize over more fancied pictures such as Robin Campillo's 120 Beats per Minute and Andrey Zvyagintsev's stark Russian drama Loveless.

There was yet more good news for the Irish film industry with Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou winning best screenplay for Lanthimos's disturbing, ambitious The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Element Pictures developed and financed the film in Dublin with the assistance of the Irish Film Board. Colin Farrell stars as a surgeon, working in the US, who forms an uneasy relationship with the son of a dead patient. The film screened to largely rapturous reviews and was considered a frontrunner for the Palme, but, given how eccentric Cannes juries can be, the film-makers will be perfectly happy with the gong they received.


The Square, which stars Claes Bang and Elisabeth Moss, was much admired, but some critics felt that, at 140 minutes, it could have done with some pruning. Östlund becomes the first Swedish director to win the top prize since Alf Sjöberg back in 1951. At the podium, he encouraged the crowd to join him in a mass primal scream. This is much the sort of thing that goes on in The Square.

Many had hoped that the jury, headed by Pedro Almodóvar, would finally get around to awarding a second Palme d'Or to a female director. Sofia Coppola, whose feminist US Civil War drama The Beguiled had been liked, was awarded the best director prize. Ms Coppola is the first woman to take that honour since the Soviet director Yuliya Solntseva in 1961.

Scottish director Lynne Ramsay's hugely violent thriller You Were Never Really Here shared best screenplay with the Sacred Deer team, and Joaquin Phoenix, who plays a private operative hunting down child abusers in her film, was a deserved winner of the best actor prize. Seeming genuinely surprised, Phoenix apologised to the audience for wearing sneakers with his dinner jacket.

The German star Diane Kruger won best actress for her turn as a woman who loses her husband and son after a terrorist attack in Fatih Akin's In the Fade. No critical favourites went home empty handed.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist