For those of us not on the Croisette this week, Seventh Row programmes an alternate Cannes Film Festival 2021.
At Seventh Row, we pride ourselves on seeking out the best hidden gems that nobody’s talking about to ensure that our readers never miss a great film again.
The 2021 Cannes Film Festival began yesterday, and amid continuing (and growing) concerns about the global pandemic, we won’t be there. As much as we’re looking forward to new films from Joachim Trier, Joanna Hogg, Julia Ducournau, and more, they can wait. (We will be covering some films, mainly from the festival’s sidebars, that we’ve been allowed to view remotely, so stay tuned.) For those of you who, like us, are watching Cannes from afar this year, we thought we’d put together an alternative festival programme of sixteen films to combat the FOMO.
Comprised of past great films by directors who are screening new work at this year’s festival, here is Seventh Row’s alternative Cannes Film Festival (featuring a healthy dose of Isabelle Huppert).
From the Official Competition
After Love (Joachim Lafosse)
Why should you watch After Love? After Love, the follow-up to The White Knights from director Joachim Lafosse, is a tense and heartbreaking post-marital drama about a couple with twins who have decided to break up, but haven’t quite managed to sever all their ties, starting with their home. Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and Boris (Cédric Kahn) still share their small but luxurious bourgeois apartment, even though Marie has repeatedly asked Boris to move out.
Set entirely in their apartment, Lafosse finds meaning in the space and how they inhabit it. In wide shots, we see how lived-in the apartment is, full of history and memories. Yet Lafosse keeps the central couple in separate frames, passing each other without ever engaging, as if they’re separated in time if not space. Yet there are moments of tenderness, around the dinner table or in an impromptu dance with their children, where we see how difficult it is for them to let go even though it’s too late for anything else. Alex Heeney
After Love is available on Kanopy in Canada and the US, OVID and Tubi in the US, and to rent on VOD in the UK.
What does Joachim Lafosse have at Cannes this year? The Restless, a family drama dealing with the husband’s bipolar disorder, starring Damien Bonnard.
What else should you watch from Joachim Lafosse? The White Knights (2015), about humanitarian workers in Africa and the ethical issues involved.
Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
Why should you watch Elle? The day after Michèle (Isabelle Huppert) was raped, she calmly eviscerates one of her arrogant employees (Lucas Prisor), who is rudely trying to undermine her. You’d never guess that she’d just been through something traumatic, but then, Michèle is an expert at hiding what’s really going on. At the end of the takedown, another employee chimes in that he loves her. It’s hard not to agree with him. She’s confident, self-assured, dryly and darkly witty, and she’s effortlessly chic while doing it. But she’s prickly, easily making enemies. Read the full review.
Elle is available on Prime, Tubi, and Mubi in Canada and to rent on VOD in the US and UK.
What does Paul Verhoeven have at Cannes this year? Benedetta, about a 17th-century nun in Italy suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions, starring Virginie Efira.
What else should you watch from Paul Verhoeven? Starship Troopers (1997), Showgirls (1995), Basic Instinct (1992).
Louder Than Bombs (Joachim Trier)
Why should you watch Louder Than Bombs? Joachim Trier’s sublime English-language debut Louder Than Bombs is an engrossing and empathetic look at a family recovering from trauma. More experimental and broader in scope than Trier’s perfectly taut Oslo, August 31st, it’s still just as carefully judged. If you dig deep enough, they share DNA: a story about exile and the meaning of home; a story about how relationships are linked to time and space; and a story of depression, loneliness, and fleeting connections. Read a Special Issue on Louder Than Bombs.
Louder Than Bombs is available on Kanopy in Canada and the US, and to rent in the UK.
What does Joachim Trier have at Cannes this year? The Worst Person in the World, which chronicles four years in the life of Julie (Renate Reinsve), a young woman who navigates the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path. Also starring Anders Danielsen Lie.
Macbeth (Justin Kurzel)
Why should you watch Macbeth? Few film adaptations of Shakespeare embrace the possibilities of cinema as effectively as Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth. Although the whispery king of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V and the uncertain, weak monarch of Rupert Goold’s Richard II would be impossible without the closeup, these films were, above all, about the text. For these directors, filming Shakespeare meant setting down for posterity a performance of the play by high calibre actors, who would be impossible to assemble onstage at once. Read the full review.
Macbeth is available on Kanopy in Canada and the US, and Prime in the US and UK.
What does Justin Kurzel have at Cannes this year? Nitram, which chronicles the events leading up to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre on Tasmania, starring Caleb Landry Jones, Essie Davis, and Judy Davis.
Raw (Julia Ducournau)
Why should you watch Raw? Three people fainted during the North American premiere of Raw, writer-director Julia Ducournau’s cannibalistic coming-of-age story. Crisply shot and incredibly well-acted, Raw confidently straddles the boundary between gore-shock and psychological horror. Ducournau’s film centres on Justine (Garance Marillier), a young vegetarian who develops strange appetites after she’s forced to consume raw meat as part of a hazing ritual at veterinary school. Justine’s sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), an older vet student, at first seems distant, but the two prove more alike than we can initially imagine. Together, both sisters embody a new kind of female body horror where carnal hunger isn’t contingent on sexual rapacity. Read the full review.
Raw is available on Crave in Canada, IndieFlix in the US, and to rent on VOD in the UK.
What does Julia Ducournau have at Cannes this year? Titane, a horror film about a father who is reunited with the son who has been missing for ten years. Starring Vincent Lindon and Garance Marillier.
A Season in France (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
Why should you watch A Season in France? A Season in France follows Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney), a teacher fleeing the war in Central African Republic and seeking asylum for himself and his two children in France. When the film begins, Abbas is already involved with Carole (Sandrine Bonnaire), a local French woman he works with. She is one of several characters around Abbas, who collectively form the image of a culturally rich and diverse France — one that stands in sharp contrast to the less welcoming immigration policies of the country. Read the full interview.
A Season in France is available on Criterion Channel until the end of the month in Canada and the US, and to rent on VOD in the UK.
What does Mahamat-Saleh Haroun have at Cannes this year? Lingui, which follows Amina, a practicing Muslim who lives with her daughter, fifteen-year-old Maria. When Amina learns Maria is pregnant and wants to abort the child, they face an impossible situation in a country where abortion is legally and morally condemned.
What else should you watch from Mahamat-Saleh Haroun? Several of Haroun’s films are leaving Criterion Channel at the end of this month, including Abouna (2002) and A Screaming Man (2010).
Summer of ’85 (François Ozon)
Why should you watch Summer of ‘85? First love and heartbreak, extremely ‘80s costumes, a few great dance sequences, and two emerging acting talents (Félix Lefebre and Benjamin Voisin): what more could you want from a summer lovin’ flick? At times hilarious, heartbreaking, and sometimes even melodramatic, Summer of ‘85 is a fun, emotional ride that will take you back to your teenage years.
Summer of ‘85 is available on Prime in the UK. It’s currently in US cinemas.
What does François Ozon have at Cannes this year? Everything Went Fine, which follows André, 85, who has a stroke, and his daughter Emmanuelle, who hurries to her father’s bedside. Sick and half-paralyzed in his hospital bed, he asks Emmanuelle to help him end his life. Starring Sophie Marceau and Charlotte Rampling.
What else should you watch from François Ozon? For farce, watch In the House (2012) starring Kristin Scott Thomas; for an erotic thriller, watch Swimming Pool (2003); for a look at the effects of sexual abuse by the Catholic church, watch the deeply empathetic By the Grace of God (2018); for a musical whodunnit, watch 8 Women (2002).
Summertime (Catherine Corsini)
Why should you watch Summertime? In Catherine Corsini’s 1970s-set Summertime, Delphine (Izïa Higelin) falls for the cosmopolitan Carole (Cécile De France) when she accidentally finds herself in the middle of a women’s rights protest in France. As a girl from the country, where women do the same hard labour as men without decision-making privileges, the concept of feminism is entirely new to Delphine. The outspoken women in the group like Carole are exotic, grown up, and exciting.
Though there’s an obvious attraction between the two and plenty of lesbians within the group, Carole has a hard time coming to terms with her feelings — she lives with her boyfriend and can’t imagine life as a lesbian. When Delphine gets called home to care for the family farm because of her father’s illness, she transforms from a woman entirely sure of her sexuality to one who sneaks around behind her mother’s back. Corsini captures the era’s lack of women’s rights and opportunities and were just as constraining as homophobia. It’s not always clear which is the driving force behind Delphine’s struggles, and Corsini is comfortable in that ambiguity. AH
Summertime is available on Kanopy in Canada and the US.
What does Catherine Corsini have at Cannes this year? The Divide, about two women on the verge of a breakup, in a hospital, who are further stressed on the night of a big demonstration by the overwhelmed staff and by angry, injured protestors who land up besieging the building.
What else should you watch from Catherine Corsini? An Impossible Love (2018).
Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)
Why should you watch Things to Come? Isabelle Huppert gives an understated performance as a witty and optimistic woman experiencing many life-changing events with a hint of (more or less feigned) indifference. Her enthusiasm carries the film through its most surprising and heart-wrenching moments. Nathalie eventually accepts her increasingly difficult reality and does everything to move on. But as we witness her misfortunes, we’re alternatively hit by waves of sadness, of surprise at her reaction, and of intense worry: will she eventually give up? Is she actually fine, or just faking it? Read the full review.
Things to Come is available on Prime in Canada, AMC Plus in the US, and to rent on VOD in the UK.
What does Mia Hansen-Løve have at Cannes this year? Bergman Island, about an American filmmaking couple who retreat to the island for the summer to each write screenplays for their upcoming films in an act of pilgrimage to the place that inspired Bergman. Starring Tim Roth, Vicky Krieps, Anders Danielsen Lie, and Mia Wasikowska.
What else should you watch from Mia Hansen-Løve? Goodbye First Love (2011), Father of My Children (2009).
From the sidebars
As I Open My Eyes (Leyla Bouzid)
Why should you watch As I Open My Eyes? Take a trip to Tunisia on the eve of the Jasmine Revolution in As I Open My Eyes, which follows eighteen-year-old Farah (Baya Medhaffar),an up-and-coming singer in an underground band rebelling against the government, who learns some tough lessons about love, activism, and patriarchy.
As I Open My Eyes is available on Kanopy in Canada and the US.
What does Leyla Bouzid have at Cannes this year? A Tale of Love and Desire, which follows the love story of Ahmed, an eighteen-year old, French of Algerian origin, who meets Farah, a young Tunisian girl.
Blind (Eskil Vogt)
Why should you watch Blind? Eskil Vogt, site favourite Joachim Trier‘s frequent co-writer, made his directorial debut with Blind. Author Ingrid (Ellen Dorrit Petersen), has recently lost her eyesight. Depressed, she has confined herself to her apartment, imagining a fantasy world to play out her fears involving her husband Morten (Henrik Rafaelson), and fictional characters Elin (Vera Vitali) and Einar (Marius Kolbenstvedt). Listen to our podcast on the film.
Blind is streaming on Ovid in Canada and the US, Kanopy in the US and Australia, and is available on VOD.
What does Eskil Vogt have at Cannes this year? The Innocents, set during the bright Nordic summer, follows a group of children as they reveal their dark and mysterious powers when the adults aren’t looking.
Why should you watch Columbus? John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson strike up a warm friendship in Columbus, a film about architecture, loneliness, and whether or not to follow your dreams. It takes place in the picturesque Columbus, Indiana, where Richardson’s Casey, an architecture-loving young woman looking after her recovering-addict mother, meets Cho’s Jin, who is in town to be with his comatose architect father. Discussions of how the buildings around them are constructed morph into conversations about what they want out of life and how obligations to family make that complicated.
Columbus is available on Kanopy in Canada and the US, Topic in the US, and to rent on VOD in the UK.
What does Kogonada have at Cannes this year? After Yang, set in a near future, follows a family reckoning with questions of love, connection, and loss after their A.I. helper unexpectedly breaks down. Starring Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, and Haley Lu Richardson.
Dark River (Clio Barnard)
Why should you watch Dark River? Clio Barnard takes us deep into the PTSD headspace of Alice (Ruth Wilson), who returns to her home village to claim the tenancy to her family farm after her father’s death. It’s the first time she’s been home in fifteen years, having been sexually abused as a child by her father, which means every place on the farm is haunted with echoes of trauma. It’s a deeply felt and empathetic look at coping with trauma for victim and bystander, and the troubled relationship between Ruth and her brother (Jonah Russell).
Dark River is available on Prime, Tubi, and Kanopy in Canada and the US, and Arrow in the UK.
What does Clio Barnard have at Cannes this year? Ali & Ava, a romance between Ali and Ava, both lonely for different reasons, meet and sparks fly, starring Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook.
What else should you watch from Clio Barnard? Our editorial team hasn’t yet seen two of Barnard’s most acclaimed films, The Arbor (2010) and The Selfish Giant (2013), but trusted sources tell us they are worth seeking out.
Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold)
Why should you watch Fish Tank? Like a fish in a tank — or any self-loathing teenager — Mia (Katie Jarvis), the 15-year-old protagonist in Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, feels lost, trapped, and on display. At school, Mia is on the verge of expulsion, and at home, she butts heads with her alcoholic mom and angsty sister. She wants to break free but has nowhere to go: beyond the house, the entrails of an East London housing project are barren and inhospitable. In this context, Connor, Mia’s mother’s new boyfriend, seems like a breath of fresh air — until he gets too close. Read the full essay.
Fish Tank is available on Criterion Channel in Canada and the US, AMC Plus and Tubi in the US, and Netflix in the UK.
What does Andrea Arnold have at Cannes this year? Cow, a close-up documentary portrait of the daily lives of two cows.
What else should you watch from Andrea Arnold? Our editorial team is split on American Honey (2016): Executive Editor Orla Smith loves it but Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney is not a fan. Her adaptation of Wuthering Heights (2011) is also flawed but worth seeking out.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Shlomi Elkabetz)
Why should you watch Gett? Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem opens in a courtroom; we mostly won’t leave it for the next two hours, which span five years. Only subtle changes in costumes and demeanor give us a window into what has happened in the world outside. This courtroom is some kind of cruel purgatory.
At the front of the room are three rabbinical judges, old bearded men, who peer down at us with unequivocal power from their elevated bench. To the left is the middle-aged Rabbi Shimon in a kipa (Sasson Gabai), acting as advocate for Elisha Amsalem (Simon Abkarian, “Yes”) who has chosen not to come to court when beckoned: we see Shimon from the side, and from afar. And finally, there’s Carmel (Menashe Noy), whom we gaze up at from below at his side, with affection and admiration, as he stands and talks, as if we’re sitting right next to him. Read the full review.
Gett is available on Kanopy in Canada and the US, Prime and OVID in the US, and to rent in the UK.
What does Shlomi Elkahbetz have at Cannes this year? Black Notebooks, a documentary love letter to the director’s sister, the late actress and director Ronit Elkabetz.
The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg)
Why should you watch The Souvenir? Joanna Hogg’s exquisite The Souvenir was the talk of Sundance 2019, picking up the World Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. Almost overnight, Hogg transformed into an international art house sensation. The Souvenir is Hogg’s first coming-of-age story, and her first film to be set over months instead of days — a unique challenge given Hogg’s process involves shooting in order, without a conventional script, with the actors improvising on camera. Set in the 1980s, The Souvenir tells the story of a film student who gets into a difficult romantic relationship that simultaneously feeds her creativity and shakes her self-confidence. Based on Hogg’s personal experiences as a film student, it even features an exact replica of the apartment she lived in at the time. Check out our ebook on The Souvenir.
The Souvenir is available on Hoopla and Kanopy in Canada and the US, Prime in the US, and to rent in the UK.
What does Joanna Hogg have at Cannes this year? The Souvenir Part II, the followup to Hogg’s semi-autobiographical The Souvenir.
What else should you watch from Joanna Hogg? Unrelated (2007), Archipelago (2010), Exhibition (2013).
You could be missing out on opportunities to watch great cinema like these alternate Cannes films at virtual cinemas, VOD, and festivals.
Subscribe to the Seventh Row newsletter to stay in the know.
Subscribers to our newsletter get an email every Friday which details great new streaming options in Canada, the US, and the UK.
Become an expert on
Snag a copy of the first ever book to be written about British filmmaker Joanna Hogg and her process.