2022: A Year in Review
Thank you to all of our readers and contributors for all of your continued support. It has been another great year for film. Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was voted the greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound 2022 critics’ poll. Fantastic to see Akerman’s masterpiece finally getting the recognition it deserves. 2023 is already looking bright with new releases from Alexander Payne, Ari Aster, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Bradley Cooper, Yorgos Lanthimos, Wes Anderson, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, John Ridley, Greta Gerwig, and many, many more.
We asked our contributors to select some of their favourite films of the year, as well as special guests Ruairi O’Brien and Vera Graziadei.
Aftersun (Dir: Charlotte Wells)
Aftersun: the soothing lotion only applied once any damage has already been done. Charlotte Wells precisely heartbreaking debut is a film reflecting this definition; on the surface, a sunny, sweet memory of a Turkish resort holiday between imperfect single dad (Paul Mescal) and precocious daughter (Frankie Corio). Cindered underneath, is a tale of a woman looking back on these memories questioning where and how something— something never quite stated— went so horribly wrong. Played for empathetic realism, Aftersun is an immediate masterpiece of subtle insights and devastating power.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (Dir: Daniels)
Who would have thought directing duo Daniels would hit such a cultural and critical nerve with their paradox of a film? A multiverse film not tied to any IP, revelling in Wong Kar-wai and Ratatouille riffs over commercialism. A blockbuster that prioritises specificity to tell a universal story; centring non-white, queer and immigrant perspectives and built off Buddhist and Daoist philosophies. A film that can absolutely floor you with emotional dialogue on taxes, much in the same way Michelle Yeoh’s hero, Evelyn Wang, can floor a cadre of martial artists with nothing but an oversized dildo. Everything Everywhere All At Once truly is a film to be seen to be believed.
Great Freedom (Dir: Sebastian Meise)
Liberation doesn’t always mean freedom, as Sebastian Meise’s deft, self-reflexive prison drama impresses keenly upon us. The criminal definition of homosexuality aligned between Nazism and its liberators, and so many Holocaust survivors faced transference straight between concentration camps and prison. Great Freedom tells the story of Hans (Franz Rogowski, tremendous), and his many years of incarceration from a broken shell to a man at home in the system and with the relationships he’s built around his cell; not least with convicted murderer Viktor (Georg Friedrich). Meise doesn’t pull any punches, but the heaviness is worth it for the bracing finale— a scene startling in its feint towards socially mandated “idealism” before embracing the cold, hard comfort of reality. Dictating the boundaries of your own life is a privilege; one we aren’t often afforded.
You Won’t Be Alone (Dir: Goran Stolevski)
A “Wolf-Eateress” (Anamaria Marinca) wanders 19th century Bosnia in search of a child to claim as her own. After a deal is brokered, she is delivered Nevena; recently witched and new to the world outside the cave in which she was raised. As Nevena shape-shifts and assumes others forms, she begins to understand a human experience her claimant mother never could, creating a startling depiction of humanity in all its forms; love, grief, gender, sexuality, autonomy. Goran Stolevski does the impossible on his debut; creating a tone poem that remains eloquent in spite of its frequent trips into the realms of matter-of-fact body horror. It’s like Under the Skin, except Stolevski’s alien is entirely of the earth yet even more unprepared to inhabit it.
Resurrection (Dir: Andrew Semans)
Rebecca Hall is surely one of our most underrated performers, as fully showcased in Andrew Semans excruciating psychological horror. It’s an icy, deceptively hyper-stylised film, telling the story of a mother confronted with a man (Tim Roth, haunting) who may have been responsible for the death of their son… And, as he claims, may equally be responsible for their sons rebirth. Resurrection triggered all of my anxieties, while never daring me to leave its presence; as it thawed, it only begged me to watch further and left me with a searing final image and a rueful, understanding smile.
Honorable Mentions: (6) The Batman dir. by Matt Reeves, (7) Girl Picture dir. by Ali Haapasalo, (8) Elvis dir. by Baz Luhrmann (9) Bodies Bodies Bodies dir. by Halina Reijn (10) Blonde dir. by Andrew Dominik
5. Decision to Leave (Dir: Park Chan-wook)
PCW has always created nuance through visual imagery and captivating storytelling. But what happens when a detective falls for a woman attached to a case? Even a possible suspect? Perhaps Park’s most accessible film yet, he traces the lines of mystery and romance through the lens of Hae-Joon, a detective that places himself physically within the observations of the woman, Seo-rae. Both unsettling and daring, Decision to Leave is surely one of the most finessed films of the year.
4. Women Talking (Dir: Sarah Polley)
“How would you feel if in your entire life, it never mattered what you thought?”
This is a film that never tells you how to feel, but is certain to haunt you soon after. It presents its case from the perspective of the women within a confined colony. Men have repeatedly caused violence against them in more ways than one, yet they continue to feel the need to forgive. I think for me, what makes this film so courageous and ambitious is the fact that these women insist on forgiveness. Any other story like this would cause an act of violence, but there is something transgressive about them walking away in peace, knowing they have gained freedom.
3. The Northman (Dir: Robert Eggers)
Unfortunately pulled from theaters too soon and much like the path of The Last Duel’s falling out to the public eye, Eggers is at his boldest yet. The Northman starts with a stellar performance from Ethan Hawke and then shifts to an accurately casted ensemble of some raw talent from Alexander Skarsgard, Anya Taylor Joy, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, and a brief cameo from singer Bjork. While the story does focus momentarily on Sarsgaard, there is a tonal absence of moral responsibility that injects pure adrenaline into this wild bloodbath. Certainly a technical achievement if nothing else, and a glorifying Norse tale from beginning to end.
2. You Can Live Forever (Dir: Mark Slutksy, Sarah Watts)
Not many will have heard of this film, since it made its brief debut back in June of 2022 at the Tribeca Film Festival. I was able to find a screening of it online before it seemingly fell away entirely. I have seen this film at least four times and every time I pick up on a new nuance between these two beloved characters- Jaime and Marike. There is a dilemma between sexuality and a small-town Jehovah Witness community pulling away from one another. One special touch is Jaime’s Walkman that she carries around, giving us a chance to hear the likes of Cocteau Twins, Young Galaxy, The Breeders, and an original score from composer CFCF. This is finally a 21st century lesbian story that isn’t brought down by other genres or sorrow, that is truly self-aware of its level of drama and position it takes regarding religion. This film takes rather a pragmatic approach on both sexuality and religion and leaves you feeling awestruck by the chemistry between the leads and the same familiar feeling of being curious for the forbidden.
1. Tár (Dir: Todd Field)
No other film has left such a lasting impression on me than Todd Field’s magnum opus. I was able to see it twice in theaters and will be seeing it for the Cleveland Cinematheque screening in January again. Tár is the kind of film to be praised from the rooftops. Its powerhouse performance from Cate Blanchett soars and Field creates a lasting melancholy with his audience. This film takes repeated viewings to fully immerse yourself in all the details that he hides, others sometimes in plain sight. He uses the concept of time quite possibly one of the most intuitive ways we’ve seen in cinema. Lydia Tár is such a fragmented character that requires both patience and empathy. The film never lets you surrender to either party's beliefs towards one another. The disfigured compositions of Gustav Mahler make a mark on the film’s overall tone as well. Tar is for cinema history, may her legendary story pulse on. See it on the largest screen you can.
Skinamarink (Dir: Kyle Edward Ball)
The premise: in the dead of night two young children wake to find their parents gone and the doors and windows to their house missing, eliminating any chance of outside help or escape. The ensuing nightmare proves a greatest hits of childhood traumas: fear of the dark, the prospect of abandonment, home intruders, and an omnipotent evil that decimates puny mortals for its morbid entertainment...
What lends uniqueness to this dread-filled fare, however, is the unconventional, grainy cinematography and sound mix. For example, we rarely see characters' faces, glimpsing only their pyjama’d-limbs as they pass time endlessly preparing bowls of cereal, playing with Legos or watching scratchy old cartoons on the VCR; which also serves as the primary light source throughout most of the film. Camera angles will often point upwards, creating a sense of 'kids-eye-view' vulnerability as they explore the house in search of their seemingly absent guardians; an aesthetic that apes the POV of a lopsided baby monitor almost missing the intended action. What transpires then, is largely a play of voices juxtaposed with dimly lit, tensely interpretive shots of a house's interior at night.
As for the underlying themes, there are sparse clues delivered throughout, first in an off-camera parental conversation, at the beginning, which might imply the film is a comatose child's death dream. Alternatively, later in proceedings, the older of the two kids expresses no wish to discuss their ‘Mom’ which would imply that person is problematic, and given the parents' implied separation, may mean these events are representative of a child's turmoil as the family unit is painfully annihilated by divorce.
Regardless, this is a horror experience unlike any other and deserves your attention. Despite the criticism levelled at the runtime, suggesting the lack of action is a drag; it could be argued that the pacing conveys the monotony endured by our protagonists. Plus, the unsettling final image should be payoff alone.
In the spirit of that pile of clothes on a chair, in a shadowy corner of your bedroom that would shape-shift in the dead of night into some indiscernible malevolence, Skinamarink recalls a time of innocence and imagination, and how those traits would sometimes prove adversarial.
The Northman (Dir: Robert Eggers)
The most expensive and, some may argue, ‘accessible’ picture Robert Eggers has made to date, still proved a little too avant-garde for general audiences, and risked slipping between two stools if not for the competent direction that has distinguished him as one of the best active filmmakers today.
With enough striking cinematography and bloody, bone-crunching violence to blow your longship-patterned socks off, a likeable, if not flawed, hero, and an end-of-second-act 'switcheroo' fresh enough to keep your brain from calcifying before the credits roll, definitely makes this a worthwhile entry to the revenge genre and a love letter to a brutally fascinating culture of old. The Northman may not have sent the box office berserk but it certainly invaded this cynic's heart.
The Banshees of Inisherin (Dir: Martin McDonagh)
A vaguely implied allegory for the Irish civil war, Banshees still manages to stand on its own two feet as a Comedy/Drama thanks to its cast of likeable, if not thinly-drawn islanders exchanging witty dialogue, with a best performance nomination for the donkey, second only to Colin Farrell's eyebrows.
Over the last few years phrases along the lines of ‘Cinema is dead’ and ‘the Movie Theatre experience is on the decline’ have been thrown around the internet. While ticket sales may be lower, from personal experience I feel my time at the cinema has been at an all-time high over the last 12 months. Here in Belfast, we have been lucky enough to finally get a proper IMAX screen, and (probably over fear of losing it as quick as we’ve gained it) I’ve trotted along to nearly every single IMAX film available in 2022. So, it will come as no surprise that my three favorite films of the year were all viewed in the IMAX, with each one being enhanced due to it. So, to (probably) paraphrase some Director somewhere: “watch movies in theaters, on the biggest screen possible, and keep cinema alive!”
Nope (Dir: Jordan Peele)
Jordan Peele returns with his third film in the Directors chair, leaning into the Sci-Fi Horror genre with Nope. Reunited with Daniel Kaluuya again after Get Out (2017), Peele recruited Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun and Brandon Perea to fill out the cast. Trailers gave little away to the true nature of this UFO tale, however with Peele at the helm it was never to be as straightforward as an ‘Alien Abduction Story’. Instead, (spoilers) Jordan Peele leaves the Little Green Men out of the narrative altogether, making the UFO (named Jean Jacket) into the sole antagonist as it stalks and hunts the characters of the film. I loved the Film Industry background of the characters, the throwback to Muybridge Horse in Motion and their jobs as horse wranglers for the movies. The Ranch location was perfect for the story, the wide expanses perfect for capturing the UFO, especially the finale which was mesmerizing in IMAX. The soundtrack from Michael Abels perfectly tied together what was probably my favourite blockbuster of the year.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (Dir: Daniels)
Every so often a film comes along that resonates with me on that next level; such as The Last Black Man In San Francisco (2019) or The Half of It (2020). Everything Everywhere All At Once has, with ease, slipped into that upper echelon of my all time favourite movies. I had so much fun! A beautiful film about time, family, choices and so much more. Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan & Stephanie Hsu absolutely wipe the floor with wonderful heartfelt performances.
The direction, editing, cinematography, all flawless. My first time watching a film from The Daniels, and I’m excited to see what they do next. While the odd multiversal quirky style may confuse some, for a sci-fi nut like me I had so much fun. The 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ratatouille references were out of this world. Oh and don’t get me started on the gorgeous In The Mood For Love-esque scene.
Top Gun: Maverick (Dir: Joseph Kosinski)
So I only watched Top Gun (1986) for the first time a few days before seeing Maverick. The concept of the series didn’t really appeal to me, they sounded like ‘Flight Simulator’ with a sprinkling of drama. However the original, watched in 4K no less, was gripping enough, funny and featured a welcomed degree of 80’s campiness. So when Maverick came along a few days later I was ready for something similar, with a slight contemporary spin. Safe to say I was not prepared for how high the bar had been raised.
Maverick takes a similar formula to the original film then heightens every aspect of the production. The training drill scenes were intense, engaging and fun to watch. The climax, the final 'real world Fight' if you will, is the most impressive sequence I've seen in cinema in a long time. Extremely cool and extremely badass.
The Worst Person in The World (Dir: Joachim Trier)
Although technically released in 2021, the film was released in the UK in early 2022 and so I’m including it here, or else it would have been a top entry for last year’s list (sorry Alex Harper). Another mesmerizing film from Joachim Trier and one of the most poignant films of the year. I was lucky enough to see Renate Reinsve in conversation at the BFI after a screening of the film. We will no doubt be seeing Renate gracing the big screen again soon after a beautiful performance.
Dalva (Dir: Emmanuelle Nicot)
Emmanuelle Nicot’s debut feature, Dalva is a gut-wrenching portrayal of childhood trauma. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Caroline Guimbal, who was awarded the Golden Frog at Camerimage in the Cinematographers’ Debuts Competition, Dalva is a true gem that deserves to be seen on a wider scale.
Armageddon Time (Dir: James Gray)
Set in 1980s Queens, New York, James Gray’s autobiographical tale, Armageddon Time is a shattering portrayal of the pursuit of the American dream.
Tár (Dir: Todd Field)
Todd Field’s third feature film and his second in 16 years. Tár is a brilliant study of a Maestro’s fall from grace. Cate Blanchett gives a stellar performance and I wouldn’t be surprised if she scoops up Best Actress at the 95th Academy Awards.
Decision to Leave (Dir: Park Chan-wook)
Another masterstroke from Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave is an outstanding entry in Park’s remarkable oeuvre.
North Circular (Dir: Luke McManus)
My favourite film of the year is a documentary.
The North Circular Road, runs from the Pheonix Park in Dublin towards the docks. At its simplest the film is a meander along the road, but it gives a unique kaleidoscopic view of the city. Music, community, passion, poverty, celebration, immigration, culture, and a host of other issues are pulled in, in a seemingly effortless way.
Even though the film focuses on the specifics of one city, it feels absolutely universal. This could be Paris, Seoul, Luanda or any other bustling town.
It’s generous and non-judgemental and great fun.
It’s also one of the best photographed films I’ve seen in years. Being shot in black and white gives it a visual coherence and stylises the world. If the Oscars recognised documentary cinematography this would be the front runner.
Triangle of Sadness (Dir: Ruben Östlund)
American comedies have been in decline over the years, coming to rely on one or two gags and familiar faces mugging it up.
Triangle Of Sadness blows them all away. One of the reasons why it’s so successful is that it’s about something. It could easily have been made as a non-comedic film. It’s got the dramatic discipline of a straight film but it’s got the blackest humour, rooted in rounded characters each of who seems rich in depth and motivation.
Who knew carving up capitalism and serving it raw could be so funny?
It’s meticulously crafted which means it all just feels effortless to watch. The performances are all perfectly balanced and the story constantly twists and turns in surprising ways.
There’s a reason why all of Ruben Östlund’s films are greeted with great anticipation.
The Whale (Dir: Darren Aronofsky)
Based on a stage play, the film is all set in one apartment with 90% of it happening in one room. For those who think cinematic means slow motion explosions or great vistas at dawn this proves that film’s great power is emotional.
Brendan Fraser plays a morbidly obese man who is struggling with life.
I’m loath to give away any plot details but I think, this film is the best thing Darren Aronofsky has ever made.
I reckon Brendan Fraser will be at the Oscars this year and might even get to take a little statuette home with him.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (Dir: Daniels)
Never has a title been more apt. Imagine cramming every idea you ever had into one film. This is like a rollercoaster. Sit down, strap in and hang on.
I went to a screening of this where five people walked out and one woman cried her eyes out for the last ten minutes. As a friend of mine said, that sounds like the reaction every director dreams of.
I have huge admiration for films that have a really strong idea of what they are and that follow that idea as far as they can. This film is like a cannonball going through whatever walls might constrain it. It’s got real heart and a very wicked sense of humour.
Nothing Compares (Dir: Kathryn Ferguson)
-incredible portrait of a beloved singer and an inspiring story of human spirit, will and talent standing up for what’s right and authentic to oneself
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Dir: Laura Poitras)
- awe-inspiring story of how Nan Goldin initiated the fall from grace of Sackler Family. Some interesting intimate details about her personal life, but really it’s a universal tale of how personal suffering can lead us to helping others and changing the world.
She Said (Dir: Maria Schrader)
- an essential 21st century viewing for any feminist or just humans interested in the plight of women. A story of how NYT published the piece on Weinstein that led to his arrest and imprisonment and changed the course of women’s history with #metoo movement.
You Resemble Me (Dir: Dina Amer)
- a daring bold first feature that tells a story of Nasra, a woman accused of being a terrorist and later revealed to be involved with a terrorist instead. It humanises people we fear and goes into the depths of a radical mind, revealing it as deeply wounded and a fractured psyche.
The Swimmers (Dir: Sally El Hosaini)
- another real life story of human spirit’s resilience and perseverance. Two Syrian sisters’ perilous journey to Europe as they escape the war and the subsequent Olympic participation and win for one of them.
Triangle of Sadness (Dir: Ruben Östlund)
- a very intelligent satire that goes to the core of moral bankruptcy of our elites and ‘influencers’. Hilarious and thought-provoking watch.
God’s Creatures (Dir: Saela Davis & Anna Rose Holmer)
- a moral dilemmas of a mother whose son is accused of a rape is examined in this powerful film: a carefully-crafted script (though I questioned the ending), brilliant performances and beautiful cinematography.
The Wonder (Dir: Sebastián Lelio)
- just a beautifully and masterfully crafted film - the script, acting, cinematography are all superb. A joy to experience especially on the big screen. It has my favourite score of the year too.
Broker (Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda)
- Kore-eda is a master storyteller. His scripts are so nuanced and emotionally intelligent and his films captures life so authentically. This film does all of that and tells a universally relevant story of how humans create substitutes for families whenever they can.