20 Amazing Cannes 2011 Films

Little gems mix it up with the big guns...

We Need To Talk About Kevin

In A Nutshell: A mother struggles to fathom her son's increasingly sociopathic behaviour and the brutal, tragic events it gradually builds to.

Lynne Ramsay directs this adaptation of Lionel Shriver's hit 2003 novel.

Take Note: Tilda Swinton is the big draw here, playing the mother whose horrified bewilderment gives voice to Shriver's quirkily unsettling tale. Showing in the main competition.

This Must Be The Place

In A Nutshell: A jaded ex-rock star in retirement sets off across the States, hunting down the Nazi officer who he's just learned tortured his late father at Auschwitz. Paolo Sorrentino directs.

Take Note: Sean Penn and Francis McDormand take the reins, with Penn rocking a bizarre Robert Smith-meets-Steven Tyler look as Cheyenne, the former crotch-thruster. Main competition.

La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In)

In A Nutshell: Pedro Almodóvar's twisty, twisted chiller stars Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon with a dark side that'd put the moon itself to shame.

Take Note: Thierry Jonquet's novel Tarantula touches on both the daughter-rape-revenge and wife-skin-transgenesis plots currently doing the rumour rounds.

Focus instead on Almodóvar directing against form in what he's calling "a horror without screams". Main competition.

Habemus Papam (We Have A Pope)

In A Nutshell: Nanni Moretti directs and stars in this wry tale of a depressed and hassled pontiff elect, for whom a shrink is quickly called in to help shoulder the crushing burden of Papal responsibility.

Take Note: Moretti plays the psychiatrist, with veteran French stalwart Michel Piccoli as the bloke in the bulletproof golf cart.

Unlikely to sit at all well with the real-life Vatican crew. Main competition.

Drive

In A Nutshell: Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan star in an LA-set heist film about a stuntman pulling shifts as a getaway driver.

Nicolas Winding Refn ( Bronson , Valhalla Rising ) directs.

Take Note: Danish helmer Refn took over from Neil Marshall when the project mysteriously went indie; it was originally slated as a big-budget Hugh Jackman vehicle. Main competition.

Pater

In A Nutshell: Intriguing essay on 'prodigal son' relationships between director (Alain Cavalier) and actor (Vincent Lindon).

Cavalier and Lindon spent a year constructing this expansive yet intimate semi-fictionalised dialogue, shooting when time allowed and eschewing further crew.

Take Note: A master of understated reflection, Cavalier has form in examining the role of the filmmaker - see Le Filmeur (2005), which this almost sounds like a companion piece to. Main competition.

Oslo, August 31st

In A Nutshell: The Norwegian capital is examined through the eyes of one young man undergoing a 24-hour existential crisis.

"Quietly shattering" is the recurrent PR hook...bleak as all hell, then?

Take Note: Young director Joachim Trier reunites with leading man Anders Danielsen Lie, co-writer Eskil Vogt and DOP Jakob Ihre - the team behind Trier's award-hoovering debut, Reprise (2006).

Midnight In Paris

In A Nutshell: Woody Allen's French-set, quasi-existential romcom stars Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Adrien Brody...and Carla Bruni.

Take Note: No real pressure here, thanks to the combination of lowered expectations, Allen's image as a benevolent Cannes fixture, and the fact it's opening the festival.

Perhaps the stage is set for a pleasant surprise, then? Showing out of competition.

The Yellow Sea

In A Nutshell: Writer-director Na Hong-jin's crime drama follows a gambling taxi driver, offered a way out of debt by a gang boss on an overseas hit-for-hire ticket.

Take Note: A profound marital twist to this emotionally fraught tale really kicks in after the reluctant killer reaches his destination.

Already out in South Korea, where it topped the box office charts. Showing in the Un Certain Regard strand.

The Tree Of Life

In A Nutshell: Terrence Malick's closely guarded '50s-set art-drama stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain.

A young Texan boy's parents take very different approaches in preparing him for the vagaries of life in the big bad world.

Take Note: Specific plot details are rarer than unicorn turds, but rumours abound of wild surrealist flourishes - including dinosaurs. Bound to be the hot Croisette head-scratcher. Main competition.