The prize-winners at the Cannes Film Festival awards ceremony drew some ire from both critics and observers from afar on Sunday evening, when the jury awarded the Palme d’Or to director Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake.” Although the film has drawn positive notice from some of the writers covering this year’s festival, there were a variety of other titles with fresh voices behind the camera — and some strong women in front of them — that many felt were worth recognizing.
So, as part of our traditional post-fest Critics Poll, we gave over two dozen of those dissatisfied writers a chance to champion their favorites. The results produced a collection of films and performances with few overlaps with Sunday’s festivities.
The big winner here? Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann,” the dark comedy that made Cannes audiences squirm with nervous laughter.
Finishing first in both the Best Film and Best Director categories, “Toni Erdmann” joins “Carol,” “Two Days, One Night” and “Blue is the Warmest Color” as films to take the top overall Cannes prize, as voted on by the attending members of the Criticwire Network. As with past years, all films that played during the festival and its sidebars were eligible for recognition.
The other standout from the 2016 results is Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle,” which after its premiere, drew across-the-board raves for Isabelle Huppert’s star turn. That positive acclaim carried over to the Best Lead Performance category, where Huppert finished at the top, ahead of “Erdmann” lead Sandra Hüller and Sonia Braga, the star of Kleber Mendonça Filho’s “Aquarius.”
The Palme winner didn’t go unrecognized by our assembled group, with Hayley Squires taking Best Supporting Performance for her turn as a single mother in “I, Daniel Blake.” “Paterson” co-star Golshifteh Farahani and Shia LaBeouf’s turn in Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” came in second and third, respectively.
Overall, on the performance side, it was a strong year for actresses, with seven of the top 10 performances being women. Add in Sunday’s honoree Jaclyn Jose (“Ma’ Rosa“) and the combined Lead/Supporting totals for Ruth Negga’s portrayal of Mildred Loving (“Loving“) and there’s plenty to look forward to in the months to come.
The rest of the top five in the Best Director tally mirrored those in Best Film. Park Chan-Wook’s work on his new film “The Handmaiden” put him alongside Arnold, Jim Jarmusch and Verhoeven, joining Ade at the top. A pair of Romania’s top talents also cracked the top tier in the Best Screenplay category: Cristi Puiu’s “Sieranevada” and Cristian Mungiu’s “Graduation.”
And, as part of the annual reminder that not all Cannes offerings can be cinematic triumphs, we also asked critics for their least favorite. 2016’s ignominious honor went to Sean Penn’s “The Last Face.”
Last year’s winners in this poll turned out to be some of the year’s most well-regarded films (and some of 2016’s too, if you count “The Lobster”). Time will tell when Ade, Huppert, Squires and the rest will get their chance at more international acclaim.
To see the full results of this year’s Cannes Critics Poll, including links to individual critics’ ballots, visit our survey homepage here.