15 Movies Like Annette (2021)

Staff & contributors

Many films have tried to decipher the indecipherable bond between mothers and daughters. Lady Bird, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Turning Red, to name a few, center on this particular relationship, which to outsiders may seem strange at best and dysfunctional at worst. How can mothers yell at their daughters one second and coddle them the next? How can daughters treat mothers like their best friend and enemy all at once? 

One of the best films to explore this complexity is Petite Maman, a fantasy-like film that brings together mother and daughter in a unique situation, forcing them both to regard the other in otherwise impossible ways. It succeeds where others haven’t precisely because it accepts that this relationship is beyond dissecting, and the only way to honor it is in the poignant, poetic, and otherworldly way that it does. It’s a quiet film that manages to say a lot, not least of which is that it’s okay to feel and love and hurt as much as one does.

Genre: Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Joséphine Sanz, Margot Abascal, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne

Director: Céline Sciamma

After Love is a beautifully powerful and quietly moving outing by emerging British filmmaker Aleem Khan. It follows Mary (Joanna Scanlan), a white Muslim convert who discovers a life-changing secret her husband has managed to keep from her all these years.

Without spoiling anything, I will say that After Love is charged with the sort of deep-seated emotion we sometimes don’t know how to express. It’s also a powerful reminder that there’s no one way to love or grieve or celebrate the people around us; sometimes, there’s just feeling. And Scanlan does a wonderful job of restraining then conveying all of that in devastating and commanding moments throughout the film, a feat that earned her the much-deserved best actress award at the 2021 BAFTAs. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adam Karim, Elijah Braik, Jeff Mirza, Joanna Scanlan, Narayan David Hecter, Nasser Memarzia, Nathalie Richard, Subika Anwar-Khan, Sudha Bhuchar, Talid Ariss

Director: Aleem Khan

, 2022

Vortex, Gaspar Noé’s haunting exploration of death and dementia, begins with a dedication: “to all those whose brains will decompose before their hearts.” The statement sets the heartwrenching tone of the film, which follows an elderly couple—one with dementia and the other with a heart ailment—during their last days together. Noé cleverly depicts all this in a split-screen design, which evokes the fractured pattern of old-age thought. 

Noé’s mother struggled with dementia, and Noé’ himself suffered from a brain hemorrhage that nearly killed him, so Vortex is clearly a personal film. But even without knowing this, Vortex feels effortlessly dear and deeply intimate, like it could've only been done by a person with a first-hand experience of this tragedy. At once personal and universal, Vortex is a haunting and inventive ode to love, death, and everything in between.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Lutz, Corinne Bruand, Dario Argento, Françoise Lebrun, Jean-Baptiste Thoret, Nathalie Roubaud, Stephane Derderian

Director: Gaspar Noé

A gritty and realistic thriller set in France’s notorious capital city of crime - Marseille. 

Zachary is released from Juvenile prison to learn that his mother has abandoned him. He finds kinship in an underage sex worker by the name of Shéhérazade. 

This seems like the set-up for a tough watch, but Shéhérazade plays like a romance when it’s slow, and a crime thriller when it’s fast (it’s mostly fast). Everything about the story and two leads’ relationship rings true. Added to the fact that it has no interest in emotionally manipulating you, the movie is more gripping and thought-provoking than sad.

A great story, fantastic acting from the cast of first-timers, and outstanding direction give the feeling that Shéhérazade is bound to become a modern classic. If you liked City of God, you will love this. 

Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Dylan Robert, Idir Azougli, Kader Benchoudar, Kenza Fortas, Lisa Amedjout, Nabila Ait Amer, Nabila Bounad, Sofia Bent

Director: Jean-Bernard Marlin

Rating: TV-MA

, 2021

Celebrated Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s latest movie is about Rahim, a man who is in jail because he was unable to repay a debt. He gets a temporary release from prison, and with a big smile on his face, he leaves his confinement with a plan not to come back.

His secret girlfriend hands him a pack of gold coins, which they plan to sell to repay the creditor. But, as is custom with Farhadi’s movies, the center of the story is a moral dilemma that comes from one of the characters trying to be a good person. The gold coins are not Rahim’s or his girlfriend’s, but it's life-changing for both of them. 

Selected as Iran's official submission to the Oscars. 

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ali Reza Jahandideh, Amir Jadidi, Ehsan Goodarzi, Farrokh Nourbakht, Fereshteh Sadr Orafaee, Maryam Shahdaie, Mohsen Tanabande, Sarina Farhadi

Director: Asghar Farhadi

This Oscar-nominated drama tells the story of the events leading up to the Srebrenica massacre, in which 8372 Bosnian Muslims were killed. It focuses on one U.N. worker who was caught between trying to protect her family, herself, and helping people in need.

The film is as horrific as it is relevant: up until the actual killing starts, people are constantly being assured that everything is under control and that there is no reason to panic. This gives an eerie feeling of resemblance to the tone many minorities in distress receive nowadays.

Still, Quo Vadis, Aida? stops at depicting any of the acts that were committed that day. Instead, it focuses on Aida’s unrelenting race against the clock to save whatever she can.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Alban Ukaj, Boris Isaković, Boris Ler, Dino Bajrović, Dražen Pavlović, Emina Muftić, Emir Hadžihafizbegović, Ermin Bravo, Ermin Sijamija, Izudin Bajrović, Jasna Đuričić, Job Raaijmakers, Joes Brauers, Johan Heldenbergh, Juda Goslinga, Micha Hulshof, Raymond Thiry, Reinout Bussemaker, Rijad Gvozden, Sanne den Hartogh, Sol Vinken, Teun Luijkx

Director: Jasmila Žbanić

The Hand of God is the autobiographical movie from Paolo Sarrantino, the director of the 2013 masterpiece The Great Beauty. He recently also directed The Young Pope with Jude Law and Youth Paul Dano, both in English. He is back to his home Italy with this one. 

More precisely, he’s in his hometown Naples, in the 1980s, where awkward teenager Fabietto Schisa’s life is about to change: his city’s soccer team Napoli is buying the biggest footballer at the time, Diego Maradona.

Sarrantino, who is also from Naples, made this movie that is half a tribute to the city and half to what it meant growing up around the legend of Maradona.

The Hand of God is to Sarrantino what Roma was to Alfonso Cuarón, except it’s more vulgar, fun, and excessive. It is equally as personal though, and it goes from comedy to tragedy and back with unmatched ease.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alessandro Bressanello, Alfonso Perugini, Betti Pedrazzi, Birte Berg, Ciro Capano, Cristiana Dell'Anna, Daniele Vicorito, Dora Romano, Enzo De Caro, Filippo Scotti, Lino Musella, Luisa Ranieri, Marina Viro, Marlon Joubert, Massimiliano Gallo, Monica Nappo, Renato Carpentieri, Sofya Gershevich, Teresa Saponangelo, Toni Servillo

Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Even if you aren't familiar with the original, Tony Award-winning Broadway production from Lin-Manuel Miranda, this adaptation of In the Heights is still infused with the same infectious energy and loaded with many of the same eclectic songs. This is musical theater at its most fundamental (cheesy, us-against-the-world romance; unstoppable optimism) and also at some of its most unique—with old-school Broadway numbers mixing seamlessly with hip hop, Latin dance, and cheery 2000s pop. But beyond its music, In the Heights offers a gorgeous tapestry of stories about life in a proud immigrant community and the challenges of staying rooted to home while reaching for the stars.

Genre: Drama, Family, Music, Romance

Actor: Anthony Ramos, Ariana Greenblatt, Christopher Jackson, Corey Hawkins, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Dascha Polanco, Dean Scott Vazquez, Gregory Diaz IV, Javier Muñoz, Jimmy Smits, Leslie Grace, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Marc Anthony, Mateo Gómez, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Olivia Perez, Patrick Page, Ryan Woodle, Seth Stewart, Stephanie Beatriz, Susan Pourfar, The Kid Mero, Valentina

Director: Jon M. Chu

In Compartment Number 6, two different people strike an unlikely friendship during a train ride from Moscow to Murmansk. One is Laura, a Finnish student looking to observe ancient rock carvings at their destination, and the other is Ljoha, a gruff miner who hopes to secure a job once there. While the pair are initially unable to get on the same page, their friction eventually lends way to curiosity and empathy, especially as they learn more about each other and life itself.

It’s a great film to put on if you’re a fan of smart but subdued movies like the Before trilogy and Lost in Translation, and there is a lot to mine beyond their already-rich conversations, especially in terms of class and romance. It’s little wonder then that this delightful two-hander shares the 2021 Grand Prix award with another brilliant piece of art, Asghar Farhadi's A Hero.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Denis Pyanov, Dinara Drukarova, Galina Petrova, Konstantin Murzenko, Natalia Drozd, Polina Aug, Seidi Haarla, Sergey Agafonov, Tomi Alatalo, Valeriy Nikolaev, Yuliya Aug, Yuriy Borisov

Director: Juho Kuosmanen

Rating: R

During Custody’s opening scene — a judge-mediated custody hearing between ex-spouses Miriam (Léa Drucker) and Antoine (Denis Ménochet) — the latter’s lawyer pleads with the judge to side with her client, arguing that, despite his reported history of violence and the reluctance of the couple’s 11-year-old son to live with him, “Nothing here is black and white.” Custody plays something of a poker face in its first few minutes, leaving us as reliant as the judge is on arguments like these, but outside of the mediation room, the film’s tight 93-minute runtime builds to a finish that will conclusively — and terrifyingly — prove that claim false.

The skill of Custody, however, is in the fact that we don’t need this definitive proof to form our judgment, because we can feel the silent threat of it in every preceding frame. Each of its naturalistic scenes, whether ostensibly quotidian or celebratory, is suffused with simmering dread and ticking tension; even when he’s absent, Antoine looms over the family’s life like a dark cloud. With such restrained mastery over a thriller-like tone, Custody reveals the family’s all-too-common reality as the horror it really is.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alain Alivon, Anne-Gaëlle Jourdain, Coralie Russier, Denis Ménochet, Florence Janas, Jean-Claude Leguay, Jean-Marie Winling, Jenny Bellay, Julien Lucas, Léa Drucker, Martine Schambacher, Martine Vandeville, Mathilde Auneveux, Saadia Bentaïeb, Thomas Gioria

Director: Xavier Legrand

Better Days tells the story of Chen Nian, a quiet girl who starts experiencing bullying at her school after her classmate commits suicide for the same reason. But soon, she meets Xiao Bei, a teenage street thug who offers her protection. What starts as a melodramatic story at first becomes a gentle romance. 

Still, Better Days is focused on the psychological aspect of the characters, and how they manage pressure. It's a reminder of the inevitable harshness of reality: dealing with poverty, bullying, and dirty competition. But, in showing the bitter aspects of life, it also shows that there are still those who care and that those who are meant to meet will always find each other.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bozhan Ju, Gao Xuanming, He Jian Yi, Huang Jue, Jackson Yee, Wu Yue, Xie Xintong, Yin Fang, Zhang Xin Yi, Zhang Xinyi, Zhang Yao, Zhang Yifan, Zhao Runnan, Zhou Dongyu, Zhou Ye, 吴越

Director: Derek Tsang, Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung

Rating: 0

If you like: weird movies and / or Scandinavian mythology, this movie is for you. It's about unusual looking border agent with super-human abilities (such as smelling fear and shame) who meets someone like her for the first time There is a big revelation in Border that I can't share but while this movie was directed by an Iranian (Ali Abbasi), it's deeply rooted in Swedish folklore. Themes of identity, gender, and otherness intersect through a thrilling script and beautifully-shot nature scenes.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Andreas Kundler, Ann Petrén, Åsa Janson, Donald Högberg, Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander, Henrik Johansson, Ibrahim Faal, Jörgen Thorsson, Josefin Neldén, Kardo Razzazi, Kjell Wilhelmsen, Krister Kern, Matti Boustedt, Natalie Minnevik, Rakel Wärmländer, Robert Enckell, Sten Ljunggren, Tomas Åhnstrand, Viktor Åkerblom, Viktor Åkerblom-Nilsson

Director: Ali Abbasi

Rating: R

Romantically pairing up AI with humans is hardly new, and I'm Your Man is aware of that. Instead of spending way too much time explaining the advanced tech that makes the perfect mate possible, the movie zeroes in on its charismatic leads Tom the robot (Dan Stevens) and Alma the indifferent academic (Maren Eggert). Tom is the curious, humanoid automaton who is designed to worship Alma, and Alma is the disillusioned human who is conflicted with the authenticity of her growing feelings for Tom. I'm Your Man is smart and empathetic enough to stay afloat amidst its swirling genres and ethical dilemmas, but it is mostly the chemistry between Tom and Alma that anchors it to the love story that it actually is. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Annika Meier, Christoph Glaubacker, Dan Stevens, Falilou Seck, Hans Löw, Henriette Richter-Röhl, Inga Busch, Jürgen Tarrach, Karolin Oesterling, Maren Eggert, Mignon Remé, Monika Oschek, Sandra Hüller, Sebastian Schwarz, Victor Pape-Thies, Wolfgang Hübsch

Director: Maria Schrader

Rating: R

When Émilie finds a new roommate in Camille, she also gains a friend and a lover. Still, the parameters of their relationship are never quite sure, causing a complicated chasm that both divides and arouses them. Eventually, they meet Nora, who brings her own desires and insecurities into the mix. Experimentation ensues as the film follows the trio coming into their own as sexual and human beings. 

Shot in rich black and white against the backdrop of Paris' urban Les Olympiades neighborhood, Paris, 13th District is a finely balanced film that never overstays its welcome in the contrasting ideas it takes on. Classic love stories offset modern setups of romance, while fast-paced city life levels out the uncertainty of its inhabitants. Paris, 13th District is an engaging watch, not despite but because of its bold attempt to be many things at once. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Anaïde Rozam, Carl Malapa, Fabienne Galula, Geneviève Doang, Jeanne Disson, Jehnny Beth, Jules Benchetrit, Lucie Zhang, Lumina Wang, Makita Samba, Noémie Merlant, Patrick Guérineau, Raphaël Quenard, Soumaye Bocoum, Stephen Manas, Tony Harrisson, Yves Yan

Director: Jacques Audiard

Rating: R

Making a heist so unoriginal and uneventful is a feat, and Gold Brick manages to do both without missing a beat. None of the characters are particularly interesting or distinct enough to remember their names. The idea of stealing from a big corporation (usually a solid setup) has no bite because the motivations feel hollow and unrealized. Most of the "ingenious" slight of hands and master plans don't impress or stick, and later plot points' payoffs stay as lackluster as their setups. Crisp, saturated cinematography is pleasant on the eyes but not enough to stop them from glazing over.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Agathe Rousselle, Antoine Gouy, Bruno Lochet, Grégoire Colin, Igor Gotesman, Irina Muluile, Ludovik, Nicolas de Lavergne, Nina Meurisse, Raphaël Quenard, Slimane Dazi, Stéphan Wojtowicz, Youssef Hajdi

Director: Jérémie Rozan