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CANNES 2024 Competition

Review: Grand Tour


- CANNES 2024: Miguel Gomes’ latest effort is a playful, fascinating cinematic experience telling the story of a man who flees his betrothed

Review: Grand Tour
Crista Alfaiate (left) and Lang Khê Tran in Grand Tour

Miguel Gomes’ latest feature, Grand Tour [+see also:
interview: Marta Donzelli, Gregorio Pa…
interview: Miguel Gomes
film profile
, is probably one of the most ambitious titles presented at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film has been premiered in the main competition, and in it, the Portuguese filmmaker tells a story set in 1917. We follow Edward (the talented Gonçalo Waddington), a civil servant for the British Empire in Rangoon, Burma, who runs away from his fiancée, Molly Singleton (a charismatic, irreverent Crista Alfaiate), the day she arrives to get married.

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During his travels, however, panic gives way to melancholy. As Edward grows desperate (or depressed, or maybe both), he decides to take the most cowardly of decisions. However, Molly does not wish to return to London and keeps following his trail, thus embarking on the titular Asian grand tour.

The most obvious approach to crafting this tale would have been to follow the linear order of events and imbue it with a decent mise-en-scène typical of a 1910s-set period drama. Gomes does take this path, but it represents only a fraction of his directing work.

Instead, some parts are brilliantly replaced by witty voice-over commentary (spoken in multiple Asian languages, often matching the places where the narrative unfolds), accompanied by present-day, almost documentary-like fragments and portraits. For the most part, these additions work beautifully, as they are intertwined with the 1917-set scenes, lensed in stunning black and white.

Commendably, the plot remains easy to follow, yet is enriched by unexpected touches of irony which take the form of different images – for example, a drunk old man singing Frank Sinatra’s legendary “My Way” out of tune, two pandas stuck in a tree, or a buzzing Asian street full of cars and motorbikes accompanied by the notes of “The Blue Danube Waltz”.

Furthermore, the two leading characters are overall well developed and appealing. Molly, for example, is a determined young woman. Despite the situation she is in, she seems to stay in a light-hearted mood and blows small raspberries when amused. The dialogue is sharp, and the presence of several minor characters – including Molly’s penniless cousin, an annoying suitor, an Italian opera singer and some mysterious wise old men she meets along the way – make the whole journey entertaining yet sophisticated.

All in all, Gomes crafts a memorable cinematic experience. Grand Tour is a mind-blowing travelogue drama that encapsulates – at least to some extent, without being pretentious or too “highbrow” – elements of past and present colonialism, social divides, love and human fear. It’s a brave film that doesn’t crave audience approval, remaining loyal to its core from start to finish and striking a good balance between being “stylish” and staying intelligible. It’s a rare feat, these days. Chapeau!

Grand Tour was produced by Portugal’s Uma Pedra no Sapato, Italy’s Vivo Film, France’s Shellac and Cinéma Defacto, Germany’s The Match Factory Productions, Japan’s Creatps and China’s Rediance. The Match Factory is also in charge of the picture’s world sales.

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Photogallery 22/05/2024: Cannes 2024 - Grand Tour

22 pictures available. Swipe left or right to see them all.

Miguel Gomes, Lang Khê Tran, Cláudio da Silva, Gonçalo Waddington, Cristina Alfaiate
© 2024 Fabrizio de Gennaro for Cineuropa -,

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