It is no secret that Cannes has had an uneasy relationship with gender parity, responding to the increased demand for diverse films with minor changes. The festival’s director, Thierry Frémaux, came under fire for this at the opening press conference, with his frankly inaccurate claim: “There have never been so many women directors in the official selection because there have never been so many women directors in the industry as a whole.” Cue slow applause. That said, records have been broken on the Croisette this year. There are 25 per cent more female film-makers in main competition than in 2018 and one of them, Mati Diop, became the first black woman to contend for the Palme d’Or. Here, we celebrate some of the best movies from women at Cannes.
“You’re a good mother, but which of your children will you choose?” This is the conundrum faced by the workaholic botanist Alice (Emily Beecham), who is torn between caring for her teenage son Joe and his diminutive namesake Little Joe, the plant she genetically engineers to make people happy. The anthropomorphised blooms – which hiss out plumes of intoxicating pollen at nightfall – soon become linked to a spate of infinitesimal mood shifts among Alice’s colleagues and, worst of all, Joe. Are those around her genuinely fine, as they so adamantly claim? Or are they gaslighting her? Written and directed by the Austrian film-maker Jessica Hausner, Little Joe is an absorbing tangle of protocol breaches and relentless percussion that emotively interrogates the ethics of scientific advancement.