‘The Favourite’ takes two awards at Venice Film Festival

Olivia Colman wins best actress for performance in Yorgos Lanthimos’s Irish production

Yorgos Lanthimos's The Favourite, an Irish production from Element Pictures, has taken two major prizes at The Venice Film Festival. The historical comedy snatched the Grand Jury Prize – essentially the silver medal – and Olivia Colman, who plays Queen Anne in the hugely praised film, took the Volpi Cup for best actress.

Speaking from the Toronto International Film Festival, Ed Guiney, producer of The Favourite and co-founder of Element, expressed his delight to The Irish Times.

"We are absolutely delighted with the Venice awards for the brilliant Olivia Colman and the extraordinary Yorgos Lanthimos, " Guiney said.

“Combined with a terrific response at the Telluride Film Festival and a 100 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes, this positions the film wonderfully for its release in the US later this year. Irish audiences will get to see it early next year.”


This is Element's third film with Lanthimos following awarding-winning runs for The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Also starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, The Favourite concerns rivals for the favour of Queen Anne in early 18th-century England. The reviews have been ecstatic. Variety commented: "It's a perfectly cut diamond of a movie – a finely executed, coldly entertaining entry in the genre of savage misanthropic baroque costume drama." There was much praise for the camerawork by Irish man Robbie Ryan.

Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, a lavish monochrome drama set in 1970s Mexico City, took the Golden Lion, Venice's much-coveted first prize. Roma's win is a notable success at a film festival for Netflix. Willem Dafoe was named best actor for his turn as Vincent Van Gogh in Julian Schnabel's At Eternity's Gate. The Coen brothers' took best screenplay for their episodic western The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. The Favourite's achievement is all the more remarkable in a year stuffed with well-received films from eminent directors.

Founded in 1932, the Venice Film Festival is among the oldest and most distinguished events in the film calendar. In recent years, the festival has profited from the lengthening of the awards season and its prizes have offered pointers to the following year's Oscar nominees. Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water, this year's best picture winner, premiered in Venice last year and took home the Golden Lion.

The 75th edition did not pass without controversy. At a time when the industry is focused on increasing diversity, there were raised eyebrows at the inclusion of only one film by a woman director in the main competition. The authorities will be relieved that Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale, an Australian revenge thriller, did end up with the Special Jury Prize, but there will be pressure to do better next year. A film-maker was permitted to walk the red carpet for Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Weinstein is innocent". A critic was also heard yelling a sexist obscenity when Kent's name appeared in the closing credits of The Nightingale. None of this is enhancing the efforts to make the film business a friendlier environment for women.

Now the focus moves westwards to the ongoing, madly busy Toronto International Film Festival.

Full list of awards:

Golden Lion: Roma, dir. Alfonso Cuaron

Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize: The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

Silver Lion Best Director: The Sisters Brothers, dir. Jacques Audiard

Volpi Cup for Best Actress: Olivia Colman in The Favourite

Volpi Cup for Best Actor: Willem Dafoe in At Eternity's Gate, dir. Julien Schnabel

Best Screenplay Award: Joel & Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Special Jury Prize: The Nightingale, dir. Jennifer Kent

Marcello Mastroianni Award: Baykali Ganambarr for The Nightingale

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

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