2023 Cannes Film Festival | Day 3-4 Capsule Reviews

Days 3 and 4 of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival have come and gone, but there were movies that I am still thinking about. From a chaotic story about traveling across the east coast of the US to a Spanish murder mystery with deadly secrets, these couple of days yielded great entertainment.

Here are my reviews for Days 3 and 4 of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.

Le Retour (Homecoming) | Director: Catherine Corsini

Cannes Synopsis: Khédidja works for a wealthy Parisian family who offered her to mind their children for a summer in Corsica. Bringing along her own two teenage daughters Jessica and Farah, it is an opportunity for them to go back to the island they left 15 years earlier, in tragic circumstances. While their mother grapples with her memories, the two girls indulge in all the summer temptations: unexpected encounters, mischief and first love experiences. Meanwhile, questions are surfacing about their distant past on the island, leading them to dig deeper into their mother’s version of the family story.

Le Retour for Cannes 2023
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Review: One of my favorite films of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, Le Retour (Homecoming) is sensational and emotional storytelling at its finest. The film comes with accurate depictions of single parenthood, sisterhood, and the dynamics of a family containing three females. As someone who grew up in this type of household, this affected me greatly, but in the best way. And without giving away too many details, let’s just say that even if you can’t relate to the exact circumstances in this film, it’ll hit you emotionally regardless.

Corsini’s depiction of a dark-skinned family in Corsica (a French island located in the Mediterranean Sea) can only be described as what I perceive to be accurate. The racism and sexism that this family of three has had to face may not be shocking to most, but it is a shared experience by many. While these happenings are not always aggressive and violent, it doesn’t make it any less disappointing to still have to be in a world in which these feelings exist. Mais, c’est la vie.

The reason why this film is so great truly comes down to something so simple. It relies on relatable human experiences despite it being a story particular to Black people. There are themes related to journeys of self-discovery as well as healing from the past and traumas. So, it’s something to which we all can relate.

Even better, the film contains some beautifully shot sequences, gorgeous cinematography, and great acting. If there’s ever a chance to watch this international film, I highly recommend it!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Sweet East | Director: Sean Price Williams

Official Synopsis: A picaresque journey through the cities and woods of the Eastern seaboard of the U.S undertaken by Lillian, a high school senior from South Carolina. She gets her first glimpse of the wider world on a class trip to Washington, D.C.

The Sweet East for Cannes 2023
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Review: I’m not sure I enjoyed everything about cinematographer turned director Sean Price Williams’ The Sweet East, but there’s no denying the genuineness and entertainment factor that comes with his first feature-length film.

In this voyage through the east coast of the United States [and may I add armpits of America–not because of the locations but because of the characters we come across], our heroine finds herself interacting with a plethora of wild characters. This includes a gun-toting conspiracy theorist (Andy Milonakis), a Neo-Nazi (Simon Rex), and a period-piece actor (Jacob Elordi) within a matter of days.

Lillian’s journey is as farfetched as it sounds, but it just goes to show you the diversity that truly exists in America (whether positive or negative). Furthermore, the mayhem that ensues is some good old fashion entertainment.

My one gripe with this film lies in the fact that the script struggles to go beyond the surface of its themes related to politics, humanity, and self-discovery. And by the time the ending comes around [and everything is wrapped up nicely], it all feels a little pointless, if not just to shock the viewers.

So, take that as what you will. But I definitely still had a good time watching this despite the amount of eyebrow raising that ensued. Look out for my full review on Screen Rant.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Zone of Interest | Director: Jonathan Glazer

Cannes Synopsis: The commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and his wife Hedwig, strive to build a dream life for their family in a house and garden next to the camp.

The Zone of Interest for Cannes 2023
© Courtesy of A24

Review: I’m not really sure why, but I did not have a good time watching Jonathan Glazer’s latest feature at all. Perhaps that’s due to the methodical storytelling approach, or maybe it’s because of the content of story. But one thing that’s certain is that it did not sit right with me at all.

First, let me start off by saying that viewers will not learn anything new by watching this film. Instead of expecting a history lesson (on an already well-known genocide), this film is an experience, albeit a bleak one at that. I say that not to criticize, but to emphasize that the horrors throughout this film are never shown on screen–and for great reason. However, the filmmakers included horrifying sounds and subtle imagery, and it feels just as chilling.

Despite my feelings on this feature, the film itself is great and really emphasizes the cruelty of the Holocaust even though nothing technically happens on screen, a well-intentioned decision by the filmmakers. Therefore, my star rating below reflects that. But watching a German family happily go about their lives just wasn’t of interest to me–especially for 1 h and 46 minutes.

With this kind of film, the pacing has to be damn-near flawless. But for me, it simply wasn’t. This unnerving feature could have been a short film but with greater impact as such.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Perdidos en la Noche (Lost in the Night) | Director: Amat Escalante

Cannes Synopsis: Emiliano lives in a small mining town in Mexico. Motivated by a deep sense of justice, he searches for those responsible for the disappearance of his activist mother who was standing up for local jobs against an international mining company. Receiving no help from the police or judicial system, he finds a clue that leads him to the wealthy Aldama Family, where he meets a famous artist, his celebrity wife and their beautiful daughter. It’s not long before he has a job at their home and becomes determined to uncover the secrets beneath the surface.

Perdidos en la Noche for Cannes 2023
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Review: Amat Escalante’s feature about the injustices faced in a Mexican mining town is a mixed bag of efforts. Despite its gutsy opening, which is able to quickly grab the attention of viewers, the momentum established early on fizzles out just as rapidly.

It’s not entirely clear what some of the character motivations were when it comes to their actions, which makes Perdidos en la Noche a frustrating watch. However, the unraveling of the truth/story is where viewers may find Escalante’s crime mystery most interesting. Think of this as a slow burn with pockets of excitement scattered throughout. But don’t expect an earth-shattering viewing experience.

Above all, what really hurts Perdidos en la Noche are the serious pacing issues. I’m sure there’s a great movie in here somewhere, but with the energy fluctuating so much and not knowing/learning much about most of the characters often makes the film drag.

The ending also doesn’t feel as satisfying as it could have been, especially with some questions left up in the air and unanswered. But it’s also a good commentary on how unsolved crimes (and even solved ones) don’t always give us the closure we deserve.

So, there you have it. It’s not the best executed story, but there are pieces to take away from it that are of value and can offer quite a bit of entertainment too.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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