11 Best Movies to Watch From VOO

Staff & contributors

In both documentaries and films, adoptees meeting their biological parents for the first time is an event often painted in a sweet light. Never mind the child’s mixed feelings about it or the tragic reality that caused the split in the first place—it’s a reunion between family members, so it must be unequivocally special. In Return to Seoul, director Davy Chou doesn’t just debunk that myth, he subverts it by making the adoptee, Freddie, as unapologetically complex and emotionally enigmatic as possible. She resists affection but wallows in loneliness. She craves reinvention but stays in the same place for years. She’s in constant motion while being absolutely stuck in life. In other words, she’s a realistic embodiment of a person struggling to find some semblance of home. Chou displays an intimate understanding of the foreign experience, and he couples it with captivating cinematography, a rousing soundtrack, and fantastic performances across the board to make a daring, inventive, and thoroughly exciting film. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Guka Han, Heo Jin, Hur Jin, Kim Dong-seok, Kim Sun-young, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Yoann Zimmer

Director: Davy Chou

Rating: R

The British social-critical director of I, Daniel Blake and The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Ken Loach, delivers another scathing indictment of our economic system, the slashing of worker protection, and the gig economy. While these are indeed the themes of this affecting drama, Loach always makes it about the people. In this case, a struggling family man who tries to turn his life around by working in package delivery. Gig economy workers are usually freelancers who own their trucks and are made fully responsible for packages until they reach their respective recipients. From peeing in a bottle to save time to seamless monitoring by an overlord hand-held device, Sorry We Missed You manages to capture the indignity and gives you an intimate introduction to the human cost of having everything delivered to your doorstep at a moment's notice. Thanks to Loach's use of amateur actors, it has a raw and real feel to it without being melodramatic. Sorry We Missed You makes sure that the habitually unseen take center stage.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Charlie Richmond, Debbie Honeywood, Katie Proctor, Kris Hitchen, Maxie Peters, Rhys Mcgowan, Rhys Stone, Ross Brewster, Sheila Dunkerley, Stephen Clegg, Vicky Hall

Director: Ken Loach

Rating: 0, 12

In Playground, we follow seven-year-old Nora as she navigates friends and school. Through her eyes (and often on her eye level), we witness her and her brother trying and often failing to fit in.

The film is an unfiltered account of their formative years, and possibly a reflection of our own. Commercials and kid-friendly media would have us believe that childhood is simple and pure, but the truth is it isn’t exempt from the major pitfalls of humanity. Children will mimic whatever they see, reasonable or otherwise, and the resulting order won’t always be ideal. Case in point: in the schoolyard, free of adult supervision, Nora and her peers push and tease and harass one another. 

It’s painful but relatable, a microcosm of our own complicated world, and though the film doesn’t shy away from the cruelties of bullying, it’s also filled with moments of empathy and warmth.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne-Pascale Clairembourg, Karim Leklou, Laura Verlinden, Sandrine Blancke, Simon Caudry

Director: Laura Wandel

, 2017

One of the sharpest horror films of the last decade, Julia Ducournau’s Raw follows in the footsteps of films like Carrie by translating coming of age anxieties into visceral full-throated terror. Justine is a beginner veterinary student leaving home for the first time. After a brutal hazing ceremony forces this young vegetarian to eat meat, she develops an insatiable hunger for flesh that begins to consume her.

Raw is as much an intense body-horror (not for the squeamish) as it is an astute psychological drama. Underneath its nightmarish sheen, Ducournau layers social commentary on sexuality, patriarchy, and deviance using the school’s sadistic initiations as metaphors for larger structures. All of this depth is paired with striking cinematography, crisp pacing, and an unforgettable performance from Garance Marillier as Justine.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror, Mystery

Actor: Alexis Julemont, Alice D'Hauwe, Amandine Hinnekens, Benjamin Boutboul, Bérangère Mc Neese, Bouli Lanners, Charlotte Sandersen, Denis Mpunga, Ella Rumpf, Garance Marillier, Helena Coppejans, Jean-Louis Sbille, Joana Preiss, Julianne Binard, Laurent Lucas, Maïté Katinka Lonne, Marion Vernoux, Marouan Iddoub, Morgan Politi, Pierre Nisse, Rabah Nait Oufella, Sibylle du Plessy, Sophie Breyer, Thomas Mustin, Virgil Leclaire

Director: Julia Ducournau

Rating: R

This is the type of movie I completely fell in love with but cannot articulate exactly why. Maybe it's the mixture of beauty and pain portrayed, maybe it's the intricate sounds and beautiful imagery, maybe it's the story, maybe it's all of the above. A woman is hit with sudden disability after an accident and calls on an unlikely companion, a night club bouncer by the name of Ali. Together they explore her new predicament and its implications, while forming a special bond. This is a movie that will call upon your internal strength, while portraying how us humans can become strong together. Most of all it provides an immensely powerful, ultimately simple story that is both touching and will stay with you for a very long time. Directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet).

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Armand Verdure, Bouli Lanners, Celine Sallette, Corinne Masiero, Fabien Baïardi, Françoise Michaud, Irina Coito, Jean-Michel Correia, Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Mourad Frarema, Yannick Choirat

Director: Jacques Audiard

Rating: 15, R

Ernest is an old bear and Celestine a young mouse; he lives above ground, while she lives underground. Their kinds fear one another, and borders are set in place so that they never intermingle, but despite all the odds, Ernest and Celestine form a bond—they share one similarity, after all, which is that they’re both outcasts. 

Ernest & Celestine is a classic buddy tale of outsiders finding their place in the world. The story and its messages of acceptance and equality are already charming and weighty on their own, but the hand-drawn and watercolored animation gives the film an extra rush of nostalgia and delight. Beautifully made and surprisingly relevant, it's a children’s film for all ages. It makes sense that it was nominated for Best Animation in the 86th Academy Awards (what doesn't is it losing to Frozen).  

An English dub is available on most streaming platforms, but we highly recommend watching it in French, how it’s originally meant to be heard.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Adeline Chetail, Anne-Marie Loop, Brigitte Virtudes, Colleen O'Shaughnessey, Dominique Maurin, Emmanuel LeMire, Féodor Atkine, Forest Whitaker, Jacques Ciron, Jennifer Fauveau, Lambert Wilson, Lauren Bacall, Léonard Louf, Mackenzie Foy, Maxime Bailleul, Michel Elias, Nathalie Homs, Patrice Dozier, Patrice Melennec, Paul Giamatti, Pauline Brunner, Perrette Pradier, Pierre Baton, Spike Spencer, Vincent Grass

Director: Benjamin Renner, Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar

Rating: PG

This movie originally caught my eye for all the attention it got at the Cannes festival, but I assure you, all of the hype is more than warranted. Two Days, One Night takes you on an emotional journey with Sandra, recovering from depression and ready to get back to work, when she discovers that her co-workers, having to choose between receiving a bonus and Sandra keeping her job, hold her fate in their hands. And thus, barely convinced herself and with her husband as her only support, she sets out on an unlikely mission to convince the people to vote against the bonus so that she still has a salary. This movie will strike a chord for anyone who has encountered depression or even simply tried to understand the abstract concept that it is. Marion Cotillard flawlessly portrays through Sandra the desperate struggle of having to put up a fight despite the utter hopelessness that she finds herself drowning in. At strife with herself, watching her try even though every cell in her body has given up, is gut-wrenching and awe-inspiring at the same time. Before long Sandra's fight on the lay-off and on her own hopelessness seem to blur together. Whether she wins, is what keeps you hooked to the very end.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alain Eloy, Baptiste Sornin, Batiste Sornin, Ben Hamidou, Catherine Salée, Christelle Cornil, Christelle Delbrouck, Fabrizio Rongione, Laurent Caron, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Marinne, Myriem Akeddiou, Myriem Akheddiou, Olivier Gourmet, Philippe Jeusette, Pili Groyne, Simon Caudry, Tom Adjibi, Yohan Zimmer

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Rating: PG-13

The Two of Us could have been a sweet romantic drama all about lifelong devotion regardless of the circumstances, but instead, first time director Filippo Meneghetti makes it feel more like an unsettling thriller that captures the paranoia and near insanity it feels to be closeted– with Nina having to beg Mado to tell her family, having to hide in what has become her own home, and having to bargain and manipulate her way to Madeleine’s side. Two of Us is quite a stunning debut with such a unique depiction of a lesbian relationship.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aude-Laurence Clermont Biver, Barbara Sukowa, Denis Jousselin, Eugenie Anselin, Jérôme Varanfrain, Léa Drucker, Martine Chevallier, Muriel Bénazéraf

Director: Filippo Meneghetti

Rating: NR

, 2018

This twisted movie is actually two movies, the credits even roll in between. The first half is gorgeous: talented dancers get together for a party and perform beautiful contemporary dance sequences. They introduce themselves through their audition tapes to join the dance group, but also through conversations at the party. The second half is less fun. It turns out someone had laced the sangria they've been drinking with a psychedelic drug. Not for the faint of heart or anyone who didn't like director Gaspar Noé's past movies (Enter the Void, I Stand Alone, etc).

Genre: Drama, Horror, Music

Actor: Adrien Sissoko, Alaia Alsafir, Alexandre Moreau, Alou Sidibé, Ashley Biscette, Claude Gajan Maude, Claude Gajan Maull, Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull, Gaspar Noé, Giselle Palmer, Kendall Mugler, Kiddy Smile, Lakdhar Dridi, Lea Vlamos, Mamadou Bathily, Mounia Nassangar, Romain Guillermic, Sarah Belala, Sharleen Temple, Sofia Boutella, Souheila Yacoub, Strauss Serpent, Taylor Kastle, Thea Carla Schøtt, Thea Carla Schott, Tiphanie Au, Vince Galliot Cumant

Director: Gaspar Noé

Rating: R

This funny and charming movie is about a Palestinian slacker named Salam who works on a famous Israeli soap opera. Each day, he has to pass a tough Israeli checkpoint to get to work and in an attempt to make things easier for himself, he agrees to change the ending of the soap opera to please the officer in charge of the checkpoint. At the same time, a temperamental French actress and his Palestinian love interest wish for opposite endings to the show. Stuck between love and politics, Salam has to navigate a complex situation to please all sides. There are a lot of hummus jokes.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Amer Hlehel, Ashraf Farah, Kais Nashif, Laëtitia Eïdo, Lobna Azabal, Lubna Azabal, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Nadim Sawalha, Qais Nashif, Salim Dau, Salim Daw, Ula Tabari, Yaniv Biton, Yousef Sweid

Director: Sameh Zoabi

The opening titles of this French procedural drama explicitly tell us that the crime it chronicles will go unsolved, confessing that it’s about one of the approximately 160 murder cases that police don’t crack each year. An ambitious and intriguing opener — suggesting that, in the absence of a clean resolution, the film will nonetheless offer us something equally compelling, as Zodiac does. 

In following the investigation of the brutal murder of 21-year-old Clara (Lula Cotton-Frapier) — for which the police interrogate various of her exes, all misogynistic potential murderers in their own ways — the film seeks to explore the society-wide “problem between men and women” that has given the police its surplus of suspects. Alas, it’s much more interested in the psychological impact cold cases have on policemen like frustrated captain Yohan (Bastien Bouillon). There’s something deeply ironic about making a movie about the systemic dehumanization of women just to center male perspectives, especially when their only insight into the epidemic of toxic masculinity is Yohan’s clunky “We can’t find the murderer because all men killed Clara.” The film’s treatment of the victim herself — incurious and downright gratuitous in the depiction of her murder — cements it as a shallow, un-self-aware, and failed attempt to reckon with a subject that deserved its full focus.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anouk Grinberg, Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners, Camille Rutherford, Charline Paul, David Murgia, Johann Dionnet, Jules Porier, Julien Frison, Lula Cotton-Frapier, Marc Bodnar, Matthieu Rozé, Mouna Soualem, Nicolas Jouhet, Paul Jeanson, Pauline Serieys, Pierre Lottin, Théo Cholbi, Thibaut Évrard

Director: Dominik Moll