Favorite Films of 2022


A few nights after viewing this, I was still piecing it together—less in terms of logistics than taking in all the shifting perspectives, recurring images, ambiguous tones and sustained feeling of drifting in and out of consciousness. Then again, I like movies that are somewhat unknowable. I retain and reflect on the experience of watching this more than anything else I’ve seen in some time. Charlotte Wells’ debut feature is less a key for a lock than an open door into another way of seeing. Also, Paul Mescal proves that his breakthrough performance in NORMAL PEOPLE was just an inkling of things to come.

2. TÁR

A great film, and writer/director Todd Field and star Cate Blanchett seem to know it; such air would normally be off-putting, but the fluidity and grace with which the whole thing moves (acrobatic sound design and all) reminds me of something like Kenneth Lonergan’s MARGARET but minus that film’s pretensions towards greatness, or perhaps everything comes together so convincingly that it doesn’t matter. A pitch-black comedy in prestige drama clothing, TÁR is sui generis, nearly as entertaining as Paul Thomas Anderson and as enigmatic as Kubrick. 158 minutes have rarely passed by so swiftly.


I recently wrote something about falling in love with a film over its opening credits, and I think this one is a contender. A tad more accessible and also genre-defying than director Kogonada’s last film COLUMBUS without lessening the qualities that made it unique, it’s science fiction without walls, exploring artifice and memory and what it could look like if the two would ever intersect. Also, I want to feel as passionate about and satiated by something as Colin Farrell’s character (his best work since THE LOBSTER, though see also #11 below) is with regards to tea. 


Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s first film outside of Asia (and follow-up to my favorite film of the last decade) is no less experimental than his previous work, thank god. Tilda Swinton’s been an expertly intuitive reactor since her Derek Jarman days, and this might be her most fascinating performance in some time for how she simultaneously commands the screen and also fades into it. I found this fascinating (if equally confounding) after my first viewing; it made somewhat more sense after a second viewing but remained, like everything else the director has done, slow, perplexing, surprising and one-of-a-kind.


Her weathered face, Tennessee accent and general moxie has relegated Dale Dickey to smaller, supporting parts (most notably WINTER’S BONE); here, she’s as earthy and tenacious as you’d expect, but this tailor-made leading role allows her to exhibit much more vulnerability and warmth than usual. Furthermore, writer/director Max Walker-Silverman’s gem of a first feature gradually reveals itself as a film about time and loss, the need for connection and the benefit of perseverance and finding strength within. Although Dickey’s character doesn’t stray far from where she’s anchored her trailer, she goes on a considerable journey of the soul.


Despite all the awards it received last year, I’m counting this as a 2022 film since it didn’t screen or stream here until then. The allure of this bold if leisurely paced Murakami adaptation is that you don’t necessarily know where it’s going, but when it gets there, the impact is staggering without seeming showy or unearned. I first saw it last March and am still looking forward to carving out another three hours to watch it again.


Call it the year of Tilda Swinton, I guess, or call this Joanna Hogg’s THE PARENT TRAP, only Swinton plays mother and daughter instead of twins, the genre’s gothic/psychological horror (set at an equally creepy/charming old British estate/hotel) rather than Disney rom-com, and the dog (Swinton’s own pet!) gets fourth billing. Also the third of a trilogy (which includes THE SOUVENIR, PART II (see below)) and possibly the best of the three.


Mostly meeting my ridiculously high expectations for it, Sarah Polley’s return to filmmaking is both of the moment and seemingly timeless. Though the story occasionally oversteps and the final section drags a bit, those are minor complaints: here, Polley depicts a world contained to the point of being restrictive; with great catharsis and reasoning, the film shows with artful clarity why this is damaging and what future generations can do to avoid succumbing to such a closed-off, incomplete life.


Terence Davies’ portrait of World War I soldier/poet Siegfried Sassoon is as unique as you’d expect from the director; what I wasn’t expecting was something more akin to his early masterworks like THE LONG DAY CLOSES than anything he’s done since. Along with his other recent poet biopic about Emily Dickinson, Davies is clearly on a late-career high with this, his most deliciously bitchy film to date (and it doesn’t even have Laura Linney in it.) 


Celine Sciamma follows her most acclaimed work (PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, already placing high in this decade’s Sight and Sound poll) with a deceptively simple fantasy about memory and motherhood that ends up one of her more conceptually ambitious films. As usual, she builds a fully realized world built out of a few essential components, only this time with a playfulness-bordering-on-whimsy that’s difficult to pull off (but rest assured, she does.)


Makes a lasting impact for the striking, evocative landscapes, the performances and the confirmation that an isolated place, no matter how striking or evocative can be heaven for a few days and deadening for an eternity.


An immensely likable Finnish indie dramedy which portrays female teen relationships with a genuineness that’s instantly winning—up there with the likes of OUR SONG and GHOST WORLD (though far sweeter and less acerbic.) 


“You’ll be fine, it will pass, you’ll get used it,” our protagonist is dutifully told in this purposely disorienting but intriguing, unclassifiable reverie from Argentinian director Ana Katz.


Set in a near-future where dreams are taxed by the government, I knew I adored this film about ten minutes in when the title card appeared (let’s just say it involves an ice cream cone.) 

15. ALI & AVA

From the director of THE ARBOR, it has a good beat and you can dance to it (to quote American Bandstand.) Also gratifying to see Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook cast as unconventional romantic leads.


A sort of autobiography relayed in carefully chosen fragments, it plays like BOYHOOD condensed to ninety minutes but with four different actors instead of one (because it wasn’t shot over a dozen years.)


Rian Johnson can make as many of these as he likes as long as he keeps assembling dynamite casts and giving Daniel Craig-as-Benoit Blanc phrases to drawl like “Jared Leto’s Hard Kombucha.”


Divided into a very Godard-ian twelve chapters with a prologue and epilogue, Joachim Trier’s latest plays with form and genre; it also verges on precious at times only to always snap back into sharp focus.


This is how you remake Fassbinder: cast a boisterous lead (Denis Menochet) who could play him in a biopic and include a glorious running sight gag like poor, dear, silent slave-twink Karl (Stefan Crepon).


Unlike SWISS ARMY MAN, this is silliness I can fully abide, thanks to Michelle Yeoh and the rest of its glorious weirdo ensemble. Nearly a BEING JOHN MALKOVICH for the internet age of info-overload.




















Three Fall Focus Films

IFF Boston’s Fall Focus is a counterpart to their main film festival in late April/early May (in my opinion the best in the area.) Since this offshoot began about 7 or 8 years back, I’ve caught titles there such as Anomalisa, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Cold War and Shoplifters. After an online-only edition in 2020 and my skipping it last year, it was a treat to return. Of the eleven films playing over four days (plus two bonus titles afterwards), I saw these three.


Sarah Polley’s return to directing after a decade carries almost ridiculously high expectations due to her previous, consistently strong body of work (Away From HerTake This WaltzStories We Tell) and all the awards season hype already showered upon this new film, which Polley adapted from Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel. Happily, Women Talking mostly meets them.

Set in a remote, rural, unnamed religious community (though Mennonite seems most likely), it revolves around an emergency, clandestine meeting among about a dozen of its women. Upon discovery that some of their men are drugging and raping them, they debate whether all the women should stay and fight back or leave the settlement with their younger children. It takes place in the near-present, though with the addition of an unlikely musical cue it could reasonably be any time since the late 1960’s; it also leaves open the possibility that it could even be in the near (or remote) future.

Much of it is exactly what the title promises: the women process the dilemma before them, discussing and arguing at length the implications of what courses of action are available to them. If this sounds dry and overly, well, talky, it’s visually far less static and isolated than something like last year’s (admittedly great) Mass. Polley not only sculpts dialogue to ebb and flow naturally like a good screenplay should, she also comprehends the value of opening up this world cinematically when the time is right for it. As the camera moves around and sometimes away from the barn where much of the action occurs, one can usually sense Polley’s hand as an additional unseen character right beside the women, reacting to and often enhancing what transpires.

The superb ensemble cast includes indie-friendly stars (Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy), Canadian stalwarts (Sheila McCarthy, Michelle McLeod), revered veterans (Judith Ivey and in a smaller role, Frances McDormand) and Ben Whishaw as the sole on-screen adult male, a sympathetic school teacher asked to take minutes of the meeting (most of the women there are not taught to read and write.)

As the women work their way towards decisive action, the film accumulates considerable power, laying out what’s at stake for these characters, illustrating their turmoil (but never in an exploitative way) and placing it in a larger context that strives to be universally applicable. Occasionally, the story oversteps, simplifying logistical concerns for actions taken; the final section also drags a bit, reiterating ideas and emotional beats already touched upon. However, those are minor missteps. The world Polley depicts is contained to the point of being restrictive; Women Talking, with great catharsis and reasoning explains with artful clarity as to why this is damaging and what future generations can do to avoid succumbing to such a closed-off, incomplete life. (4.5 out of 5)


After a brief sojourn in France (The Truth), director Hirokazu Kore-eda made this movie in South Korea rather than his home country of Japan, purportedly so he could work with the actor Song Kang-ho (he was most recently the patriarch in Parasite.) As with its predecessor, the shift in locale does not mean any departure in style or tone, though some parts of Broker might comprise his most overtly comedic work in years.

The plot, however, is the stuff of drama and suspense. Two men, Sang-hyun (Song) and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won) run an illegal business in Busan where they steal abandoned infants from a church’s drop-off box and sell them on the black market. It works swimmingly until So-young (singer/songwriter IU), a teenage mother in the process of dropping off her own baby discovers their scheme and joins them to interview prospective adoptive parents. Meanwhile, two detectives (one played by Kore-eda alumnus Doona Bae, now middle-aged but still fabulous) sit in their unmarked car and watch this all play out.

Although Broker won the Jury Prize at Cannes, it isn’t on the same level as Kore-eda’s very best work (my top four, chronologically: After LifeNobody KnowsStill WalkingShoplifters.) Actually, it’s slightly flabby (maybe 10-20 minutes too long) and although he retains a knack for getting amusing (but not irritating!) performances out of children, this film’s humor and pathos do not always sit comfortably alongside each other. Of course, as veteran auteurs go, Kore-eda is still in a class of his own. He may be relying on variations on familiar themes, but no one else matches his sustained comfort and nimble touch with depicting makeshift families and finding those ingenuous, unforced grace moments that co-exist with the mundane. (4 out of 5)


The latest from writer/director James Gray is almost nakedly autobiographical. His 11-year-old alter ego, Paul (Banks Repeta) lives in Queens, 1980 (as Gray did), the younger son of a middle-class Jewish-American family whose grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) arrived at Ellis Island near the turn of the 20th century. A would-be artist prone to daydreaming with little traditional work ethic in him, Paul befriends Johnny (Jaylin Webb), an African-American classmate who was left back the previous year and is barely tolerated by their public-school teacher. His friendship with Johnny doesn’t so much open up a new world for Paul as it gradually puts into perspective his own place in the world and how his race and class afford him privilege; meanwhile, his grandfather helps him to understand the complexities of bearing such privilege along with the moral and ethical implications at risk as a result.

Gray gets the period look and feel exactly right but sometimes struggles with other details. Apart from Hopkins, Paul’s family can come off as stereotypical-verging-on-cartoonish; even worse, Johnny’s barely a character at all, a sacrificial lamb for Paul to learn from. The insertion of two real-life figures related to a former president also feels a little clumsy, reiterating the overall point by practically banging it into the ground. On the other hand, the film would fall apart without Repeta’s naturalistic performance; he’s certainly one of the more plausible 11-year-old film protagonists, itself a tough age to depict in that Paul is still an innocent child to a degree but also easily corruptible. Of the few Gray films I’ve seen (Ad AstraThe Immigrant) this is somehow the most satisfying but also the most flawed, which frustrates–I repeatedly sensed that he’s just too close to the material even though it’s undeniably his story to tell. (3 out of 5)