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The 12 most exciting new arthouse films from Cannes and beyond to catch this summer

From moving French dramas to twisted black comedies — these are the indie films you won’t want to miss

The 8 most exciting new arthouse films to catch this summer

This week sees the South of France flooded with famous faces as the prestigious Cannes film festival kicks off. Directors from around the world will put forward their dazzling films and eager eyes will get a preview of the titles that will dominate in the coming year. But while we wait for the big names to hit the big screen, there are a number of independent, arthouse films that you won’t want to miss. Here are the 12 most highly anticipated new releases to see this summer, including our top picks from Cannes.

Happening

Based on the novel of the same name by Annie Ernaux, this French drama by director X made a grand debut when it premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival last year, earning the famed Golden Lion and plenty of critical acclaim. 

Set in provincial 1963 France — just before the wake of a new, sexually liberated era — the arthouse film centres around Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a young, promising literature student who is on the precipice of finally finishing her studies. But when she finds out that she’s pregnant, Anne suddenly is faced with the prospect of her bright, open future drastically changing. Sharply and intimately, the film captures Anne’s growing panic as her pregnancy progresses and she struggles with the idea of getting an abortion at a time when doing so could land her in prison. A timely tale, this empathetic and unique look at the experience of an unwanted pregnancy is a poignant, moving watch. 

In cinemas 22 April

Men

Jessie Buckley’s star continues to rise and rise. Hot off her Olivier Award-winning performance as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, the Irish actress is returning to the big screen in this highly anticipated new release from arthouse film favourite, A24

Written and directed by Alex Garland — of Ex Machina fame — this unsettling folk horror sees Buckley star as Harper Marlowe, a young woman who, in the wake of a tragic incident, decides to go on holiday at a seemingly idyllic English countryside house. Alas, the idyll turns out to be anything but. After being shown around the grounds by the house’s manager, the awkward toff Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear), Harper tries to find the space to heal. But something seems to be hiding in the woods around the house, and she can’t shake the feeling that something or someone is stalking her. Simmering dread bubbles over into a fully-formed nightmare, as Harper comes across questionable characters including a bartender, a vicar, a foul-mouthed child, and even a monster —all played by Kinnear — and sees her worst fears and memories come to life. Not for the faint hearted. 

In cinemas 1 June

Cha Cha Real Smooth

For those looking for a heartwarming tear-jerker this summer, look no further. Starring Dakota Johnson and Cooper Raiff — who co-wrote and directed the film — with comedy queen Leslie Mann and Brad Garrett in supporting roles, this tender tale packs a punch, tracing one young man’s journey from listlessness to purpose, with romantic entanglement to boot.

Raiff stars as Andrew, a 22-year-old just out of university who has returned home to his family in New Jersey with no plan, no ambitions and no real skills. The one skill he does have? Getting a party started. So begins his career as a Bar Mitzvah party host, with Andrew tasked with getting the friends of his younger brother’s classmates onto the dancefloor. But things quickly change for Andrew when, at one Bar Mitzvah, he meets Domino (Johnson) and her daughter Lola (Vanessa Burghardt). Lola is autistic, and to Domino’s surprise, takes to Andrew, who manages to coax the duo onto the dancefloor. Can this unexpected trio help Andrew finally understand the future life he’s meant to live? Wait and see…

In cinemas 17 June

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Emma Thompson is back in an arthouse film that is sure to be a summer hit. Opening this year’s Sundance London (June 9-12) after catching critical attention at the original Sunday Festival a few months ago, this sharp dramedy sees the award-winning actress star as widowed Nancy Stokes who decides she wants to experience really good sex. To help her on her journey of sexual discovery, Nancy hires sex worker, Leo Grande (played by newcomer Daryl McCormack), to regularly meet her at a hotel.

Leo turns out to be not only gorgeous, but compassionate. In their hotel room, Leo helps Nancy escape her past in a lacklustre marriage and come into her own, finding a new confidence and sexual liberation that is rarely talked about, let alone depicted on the big screen. A breakthrough, indeed.

In cinemas 17 June

Sharp Stick

While this year may have marked the 10th anniversary of the premiere of the hit show Girls, it also marks another big milestone for creator and star Lena Dunham — the release of her next feature film. Written, produced and directed by Dunham, the comedy explores one naive 26-year-old’s experience with the complicated politics of office romance.

Kristine Froseth stars as Sarah Jo, who had a hysterectomy at age 17. Living on the fringes of Hollywood, Jo begins to get into tricky water when she loses her virginity to her employer. In Dunham’s characteristically acerbic style, the film traces Jo’s abrupt education on lust, loss and power. Co-stars Taylour Paige, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tommy Dorfman and Janicza Bravo are sure to make this an entertaining watch. And while the film has received mixed critical reviews, when has Dunham’s work not been divisive?

In cinemas August 2022

The Stars at Noon

Another A24 production, this startling film is one of this year’s contestants for the Palme d’Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by acclaimed French filmmaker Claire Denis, this drama based on a novel of the same name by Denis Johnson boasts a stellar cast and truly incredible tale.

Rising stars Joe Alwyn and Margaret Qualley lead the ensemble as a mysterious English businessman and an American journalist who meet in Nicaragua and strike up a romance. But when the businessman has a falling out with Costa Ricans in the midst of the Nicaraguan Revolution, the two must flee. A political drama with an exciting pace and enthralling romance — as well as John C. Reilly in a supporting role — this is likely to be the film everyone is jostling to see.

In cinemas 25 May

Bodies Bodies Bodies

Pete Davidson continues to be one of the internet’s most talked about names, but his role in this dark comedy isn’t the only reason to check out this upcoming arthouse film release. A sinister and outrageous tale, the black comedy follows a group of friends whose late night party game goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Childhood best friends Sophie (Amandla Stenberg), who is recently sober, and the ridiculously rich David (Davidson) decide to host a party for a few of their friends at a remote mansion during a hurricane. So far, so bad. The social dynamics immediately seem off, especially since Sophie hasn’t seen most of the group since she got out of rehab. To break the ice, the group decides to play “bodies bodies bodies”, a murder in the dark-style game. But when that only leads to more fighting between members of the group, they decide to call it off. Unfortunately, the game is far from over, and when they discover that someone in the group really has been killed, the race is on to uncover the murderer amongst them.

In cinemas 5 August

Benediction

One of Britain’s most acclaimed filmmakers, Terence Davies, returns with this poignant, heart wrenching biographical drama about WWI poet Siegfried Sasson. Written and directed by Davies, the drama explores the little-known life of the famed poet, with a bleak exposé of Sasson’s many disappointments and struggles, from the horrific things he witnessed on the battlefield, to his struggles with his sexuality and his unhappy marriage.

Jack Lowden stars as the young Sasson, and Peter Capaldi as the older, with Davies intricately and movingly weaves a tale of the many turns in Sasson’s life, pulling a picture of a complex and arguably tortured man. After being decorated for his bravery during the war, he became a vocal critic of the government’s continued war efforts. As his acclaimed poetry introduced him to the period’s more liberal creative crowd, he was able to explore his homosexuality through affairs with several men. But at the same time, he felt himself on a mission to find salvation following the destruction of war, and tried to conform to a heterosexual marriage and Catholic life. All of this and more is detailed in this intense, powerful drama. 

In cinemas 20 May

Crimes of the Future

You’ve been warned — this film is beyond disturbing. In fact, Cannes audiences have been warned it could lead to panic attacks. This is the mood of David Cronenberg’s latest arthouse film, which is set in a dystopian not-so-distant future, where humans are having to learn to live in a synthetic environment, meaning they have to adjust to coxesiting with their robotic counterparts. 

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart and Léa Seydoux, the body horror film follows celebrity performance artist Saul Tenser who decides to showcase the metamorphosis of his organs. But things only get increasingly twisted and dark as a mysterious group appears, trying to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution. Mind-blowing in more ways than one. 

Available now on Apple TV

Triangle of Sadness

One of the films competing for the Palm d’Or at Cannes, this dark comedy from director Ruben Östlund is sure to appeal to fans of White Lotus. A sharp and wry take on the likes of the rich and privileged, this searing film offers a dissection of vanity and class.

Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean star as a retired model couple who are invited on a luxury cruise for the super-rich, led by Captain Thomas Smith (Woody Harrelson). But what begins as a glamorous affair quickly takes a dark turn when the ship hits shaky waters, and the couple must fight for their survival amongst their fellow privileged passengers. 

In cinemas soon.

Hunt

Fans of Squid Game, rejoice — the show’s lead actor Lee Jung-jae is making his directorial debut at Cannes with this epic spy thriller. Set in 1980s Korea, Lee also stars in this arthouse film alongside veteran actor Jung Woo-Sung, is this tale full of twists and turns. 

Park Pyeong-Ho (Lee Jung-Jae) and Kim Jung-Do (Jung Woo-Sung) play rival agents at the National Security Agency, both at the top of their game and both jostling for the top jobs. But when they are sent in pursuit of a North Korean spy director who was sent to South Korea, they soon uncover a hidden truth and struggle to respond to their growing awareness of their own country’s dark secrets. 

In cinemas soon.

Close

After stunning critics with his debut feature, Girl — the tale of a transgender teenager following a dream of becoming a ballet dancer — Lukas Dhont is returning to Cannes with his latest offering. Staying withing the  queer coming-of-age genre, Close  follows Leo and Remi, two 13-year-old boys whose close friendship falls apart as they enter adolescence. Confused and sad to have lost his close friend, Leo seeks comfort and grows closer to Remi’s mother, Sophie.

Desperate to get answers to what went wrong, Leo leans on Sophie to help him find answers and reconciliation with Remi. Heartbreaking and poignant, you won’t want to forget the tissues for this one. 

In cinemas soon.

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