6 Best Art House Movies Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

, 2014

Aptly named ‘Rupert Grint on speed’ by one critic, Antoine-Olivier Pilon plays Steve, an abusive ADHD adolescent who just got out of a juvenile care facility for setting fire to the school cafeteria and injuring a fellow student. Similarly, his mother Diane, played by Anne Dorval, is a type of Lorelai Gilmore on speed – and to say that sparks fly when they clash is an understatement. But help comes from unexpected places: ‘Die’ makes friends with Kyla, an anxious teacher living across the street, who then gets sucked into this crazy, volcanic mess.

Mommy is the fifth feature film by French-Canadian don’t-call-him-a-hipster director Xavier Dolan and won the Cannes Jury Prize for its originality. It is shot in the 1:1 ‘portrait’ format, but every now and then a moment of exhilaration will crack open the frame. The brutality on screen is sugar-coated by an all-over-the-place soundtrack that includes the Counting Crows, Celine Dion, and Blue (Da Ba Dee) by Eiffel 65.

Shrill, violent, and demented, this out-of-control dark comedy will punch you in the guts. But it also aims straight for the heart and doesn't miss. Prepare to be continually torn between laughing out loud, clawing your seat, and covering your mouth in shock.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexandre Goyette, Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Catherine Brunet, Danielle Lepine, Dominic Desnoyers, Guenièvre Sandré, Guillaume Laurin, Huguette Gervais, Isabeau Blanche, Isabelle Nélisse, Jean-Philippe Baril-Guérard, Jeanne Roux-Coté, Johanne Garneau, Julie De Lafrenière, Justin Laramée, Mathieu Dufresne, Michèle Lituac, Michael Rudder, Michele Lituac, Natalie Hamel-Roy, Nathalie Hamel-Roy, Patrick Huard, Pierre-François Bouffard, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Reda Guerinik, Rosalie Fortier, Sabrina Bisson, Stéphane Julien, Steven Chevrin, Suzanne Clément, Suzanne Clément, Sylvie Lemay, Ted Pluviose, Vincent Fafard, Viviane Pacal

Director: Xavier Dolan

Rating: R

The Square is a peculiar movie about a respected contemporary art museum curator as he goes through a few very specific events. He loses his wallet, his children fight, the art he oversees is does not make sense to an interviewer... Each one of these events would usually require a precise response but all they do is bring out his insecurities and his illusions about life. These reactions lead him to very unusual situations. A thought-provoking and incredibly intelligent film that's just a treat to watch. If you liked Force Majeure by the same director, The Square is even better!

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anna-Stina Malmborg, Annica Liljeblad, Christopher Læssø, Christopher Laesso, Claes Bang, Daniel Hallberg, Denise Wessman, Dominic West, Elijandro Edouard, Elisabeth Moss, Emelie Beckius, Geica Pruteanu, Jan Lindwall, Johan Jonason, John Nordling, Julia Sporre, Lilianne Mardon, Linda Anborg, Lise Stephenson Engström, Lise Stephenson Engström, Madeleine Barwén Trollvik, Marina Schiptjenko, Martin Sooder, Moa Enqvist Stefansdotter, Nicki Dar, Pauline Hansson, Peter Vitanen, Sarah Giercksky, Sofie Hamilton, Stefan Godicke, Terry Notary

Director: Ruben Östlund

Rating: R

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay both won Berlinale Best Actress and Best Actor for this movie. They play a couple who are only a few days away from their 45th marriage anniversary when they learn that the remains of the husband’s first lover have been found. He then starts obsessing about his previous relationship, to the extent that when the day of the anniversary comes, there might not be a marriage left to celebrate. This is a very ‘adult’ movie – it’s quiet, sometimes slow, very well-executed, and overall a fascinating look at marriage.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Camille Ucan, Charlotte Rampling, David Sibley, Dolly Wells, Geraldine James, Hannah Chalmers, Richard Cunningham, Rufus Wright, Sam Alexander, Tom Courtenay

Director: Andrew Haigh

Rating: R

The title of this small-scale comedy drama alludes to an aspect of creativity that isn’t inherently cinematic but which is necessary if you’re going to make anything: just showing up and doing the work. Kelly Reichardt’s filmmaking is in keeping with that focus: this is a gentle movie, full of the patience the art-making process requires and which has always characterized her contributions to “slow cinema.” 

The film is set in a small creative community where the prickly Lizzy (Michelle Williams) works in administration at an arts center and perfects her sculptures for her upcoming solo show. Her efforts are hampered by small daily dramas, though, like the pigeon whose wing her naughty kitty has broken or the friends of her father who lightly exploit his hospitality. And then there’s her neighbor and landlord Jo (Hong Chau), a rising star of an artist who inspires thorny feelings of inadequacy in the only moderately successful Lizzy. Reichardt and Williams deftly explore these insecurities, subtly suggesting that one-sided resentments like Lizzy’s are easily dissolved with a bit of human connection. These gentle moments of insight are rewarding, but it should be noted that your mileage may vary with Showing Up’s insular art world focus and Reichardt’s more unhurried-than-ever pace.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amanda Plummer, André 3000, Bahni Turpin, Heather Lawless, Hong Chau, Izabel Mar, James Le Gros, Jean-Luc Boucherot, John Magaro, Judd Hirsch, Kevin-Michael Moore, Kristina Haddad, Lauren Lakis, Maryann Plunkett, Matt Malloy, Michelle Williams, Orianna Milne, Sam Kamerman, Teal Sherer, Ted Rooney, Theo Taplitz

Director: Kelly Reichardt

, 2023

Inside is a technical wonder and a fascinating vehicle for Dafoe’s character Nemo, who holds the entire thing together with a singularly insane performance. It also poses interesting questions about art, namely, what value does it hold at the end of the day? When you’re seconds away from dying of hunger and thirst, what good is a painting, a sculpture, a sketch? Are they really only as good as what they’re materially made out of or can they contribute something more? Inside plays with these questions, but unfortunately, not in any engaging, thoughtful, or creative way. The movie stretches on and on, recycling the same ideas and leaning on the inevitably disgusting ways humans survive as a crutch. An argument could be made that that is the point, to reveal the emptiness and dullness of expensive art, but Inside tries so hard to capture that feeling that it becomes the thing it critiques in the end.  

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Andrew Blumenthal, Cornelia Buch, Eliza Stuyck, Gene Bervoets, Josia Krug, Vincent Eaton, Willem Dafoe

Director: Vasilis Katsoupis

Rating: R