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  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

My 100 Favourite Films of 2022 (50-26)

And we're back...just a little reminder from the previous countdown posts (you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here)

So once again, here we are. As per usual, I watched a shit-ton of movies last year, with 367 of them ticking off the boxes in terms of qualifying for my 2022 list based on specific release criteria. So naturally, I had my work cut out for me once more. The eventual, final shortlist came down to 147 films, all of which I enjoyed thoroughly. But here are the films I resonated with the most...The Top order.

So, what were the criteria for qualifying for this list? Some of these films debuted in 2021 and 2020, but only at film festivals that were barely accessible to the wider public. So everything on here made their debuts outside of that bubble through wider theatrical runs, streaming premieres, virtual screenings, etc. in countries like the USA, UK and South Africa.

Remember, this is all my subjective opinion, in no way am I saying which film is better than the other. These are films that just resonated with me the most, some more than others. It eventually boils down to what I enjoyed the most and connected with that adheres to my taste and who I am.

So once again, this is all like, just my opinion, man.

Let's get back into it...

50. Benediction

Director: Terence Davis

Genre: Drama/War/LGBTQIA+ Length: 2 Hours 17 Minutes Languages: English/French/German Countries: UK/USA

Cast: Jack Lowden, Peter Capaldi, Calam Lynch, Tom Blyth, Jeremy Irvine, Kate Phillips, Ben Daniels

Synopsis: An exploration of troubled British war poet Siegfried Sassoon’s life through love, loss, war and alienation that left him grappling with his sexuality and deep desire for salvation.

My Take: A deeply affecting character study of an iconic war poet, Benediction is, in my opinion, at least, the most effective anti-war film of the year that doesn’t rely on the “war is hell” barrage of mud and blood we have grown used to over the decades in film. Instead, it’s a quietly observant piece that takes place away from the front, focusing on Sassoon’s tragic life that had him coming to terms with his sexuality, the tough integration back into civilian life post-war and the survivor guilt he suffered as a result of it. Fellow WWI film in 2022, All Quiet on the Western Front, may show the brutality of trench warfare in all its gory horror, but Benediction shows the internal war that rages on within its survivor’s souls during and after the cannons stop firing.

Where you can watch it: Hulu (USA), Kanopy, (USA), Netflix (UK), Most VOD Plaftorms (USA, UK, Australia).

49. Cow

Director: Andrea Arnold

Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 34 Minutes Language: English Country: UK

Synopsis: An intimate portrait of the lives of two cows.

My Take: Sharing similarities to that of 2021’s spectacular Gunda (number 9 in my top 100 films of 2021, you can see my review for it here as well), Cow welcomes filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s first dip into the documentary filmmaking world. Where Gunda allowed us into the lives of ordinary farm animals, particularly that of a mother sow and her pigs, Cow has us priming our focus on a pair of cows, particularly that of Luma, a dairy cow. Like Gunda, Cow is so incredibly effective because we don’t focus on the people at all around them. Instead, they’re the characters we are observing, allowing us special insight into the lives of these animals that give so much to us. Beautiful, truthful, visceral and heartbreaking, Cow is a rare character study that says so much by saying so little.

Where you can watch it: AMC+ (USA), MUBI (UK), DocPlay (Australia).

48. President

Director: Camilla Nielsson

Genre: Documentary Length: 2 Hours 10 Minutes Languages: English/Shona Countries: Denmark/Norway/USA/UK

Synopsis: Taking place before, during and after the first presidential election in Zimbabwe since Robert Mugabe’s removal from office, President follows the 40-year-old opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa as he runs against ruling president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

My Take: Showcasing characteristics of a taught political thriller, President is a sobering view of the first elections in Zimbabwe post-Mugabe – a fly on the wall behind the scenes account of ordinary Zimbabweans trying to truly take back the future of their nation. It’s an alarming insight into a brittle nation fraught with corruption and uncertainty, and despite the depressing outcomes and revelations found within, President remains as hopeful as a film can get, indicating a future filled with other Nelson Chamisas ready to take the mantle and lead a country out of the darkness and into its well-deserved ascension.

Where you can watch it: Hulu (USA), Kanopy (USA), DocPlay (Australia).

47. Onoda: 10 000 Nights in the Jungle

Director: Arthur Harari

Genre/s: Drama/Adventure/War/Survival Length: 2 Hours 45 Minutes Languages: Japanese/Filipino Countries: Japan/France/Germany/Belgium/Italy/Cambodia

Cast: Kanji Tsuda, Taiga Nakano, Kai Inowaki, Tetsuya Chiba, Issey Ogata, Kyusaku Shimada, Yûya Matsuura, Yuya Endo

Synopsis: Based on a true story, 10 000 Nights follows Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese Intelligence officer who famously became the last hold-out of World War II – remaining marooned on a Philippine Island for 29 years after the war ended, not believing it was over.

My Take: A survival drama hallmarking Werner Herzog’s (who actually wrote a book on the subject) bleakest existential punchlines, 10 000 Nights is a (almost) worldless epic on the human condition. With minimal flashbacks scattered about, director Harari plants the extremist ideals and blind loyalty that led to Onoda’s extended war in the Pacific, focusing on the psychological degradation and trauma that somehow strengthened his stubborn nature that trapped him in the mindset of the war and the jungle for so long. It’s a cruel piece of irony that only amplifies the tragicomic experience and outcome of its subject, serving as a poetic piece of wartime cinema from 2022 that once again depicts the internal psychological turmoil of a soldier at war with the ideals that have effectively shaped his entire being.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK), Binge (Australia).

46. Dos Estaciones

Director: Juan Pablo González

Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 39 Minutes Language: Spanish Country: Mexico

Cast: Teresa Sánchez, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Tatín Vera, Rafaela Fuentes

Synopsis: Maria Garcia (Teresa Sánchez) owns a once thriving Tequila company. But after persistent plagues and the threat of foreign corporations interfering with her harvest and business, she does everything she can to save her company.

My Take: Spearheaded by a stunning lead performance from Teresa Sánchez, Dos Estaciones feels like a capitalist fable - a tale of inevitable loss in the face of globalization. Filmmaker Juan Pablo González creates a dreamy, almost magic-realist portrait of a woman desperately trying to keep her head above the water. Working with mostly non-actors as well, Dos Estaciones also has the realism of a documentary that works as an undercurrent throughout, making Dos Estaciones feel as real as it does dreamy. Teresa Sánchez (one of the few professional actors in the cast) allows Dos Estaciones to bridge that gap between fiction and what is a growing reality for businesses and farmers, giving us a nuanced performance that is among the most desperate, anxious, honest and heartrending of the year.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD Platforms (USA)

45. Causeway

Director: Lila Neugebauer

Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 34 Minutes Languages: English/American Sign Language Country: USA

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jayne Houdyshell, Russell Harvard

Synopsis: A former US soldier (Jennifer Lawrence) returns home to recover from a traumatic brain injury she sustained in Afghanistan. Struggling to adjust back to civilian life, she befriends a mechanic (Brian Tyree Henry), who is also trying to adjust to life following a tragedy of his own.

My Take: A quiet meditation on loneliness and the physical and psychological trauma that connects us to one another, Causeway is a welcome return for Jennifer Lawrence, reminding us all why she was so highly revered in the first place with a performance that might just be her best since her breakout turn in Winter's Bone (2010). Supported by a never better Brian Tyree Henry (now an Oscar nominee for this performance), Causeway is a simple character study made all the more complex thanks to the performances of its stars, pulling from the page to create characters that are layered, broken mirrors of ourselves learning to piece themselves back together in order to live again. It could’ve turned into Oscar bait territory with showy performances, but thankfully director Lila Neugebauer and her phenomenal leads keep it steeped in reality, offering highly nuanced depictions of loneliness and the unconscious need to connect. Welcome back JLaw, you were missed.

Where you can watch it: Apple TV+ (Worldwide).

44. Top Gun: Maverick

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Genre: Action Length: 2 Hours 10 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Jon Hamm, Monica Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Ed Harris, Charles Parnell, Val Kilmer

Synopsis: Set 30 years after the first Top Gun, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is forced to confront the ghosts of his past as he trains pilots for a highly specialized, dangerous mission that will require everything from each pilot who takes to the skies.

My Take: I will admit, I really didn’t care for the original Top Gun (1986). I found it boring, repetitive and lacking any real intrigue despite the fascinating decision to allow for Maverick (Tom Cruise) to be both protagonist and antagonist to the plot. So then, what clicked for me in Maverick? It’s mega-cheesy, it shamelessly rides on the nostalgia train (complete with callback music, callback characters, and even another jean-laden beach sports scene) and its plot and themes of redemption is nothing particularly special or groundbreaking. Its primary ingredient in what makes it such a thrilling popcorn movie, a true cinematic rollercoaster, is none other than Tom Cruise; who is arguably, not only the world’s greatest action star, but producer as well. He may be a controversial figure in terms of his strange religious identity, but boy does the man know how to put on a show. Tom Cruise, as it stands, is a modern-day Buster Keaton, possibly living out his second life (credit goes to a mate of mine with this theory) putting on the most insane stunts ever caught on film and of course he delivers in Maverick, allowing for director Joseph Kosinski to place him in a cockpit and let him go wild with it. It’s big, shiny, loud, explosive, corny and overwrought with nostalgia, but it never feels insincere – proudly wearing its heart on its sleeve that appeases diehard dad fans from the 80s and 90s, as well as pulling in non-fans like myself and making it a truly cinematic experience that needs to be experienced on the biggest, loudest screen possible. I cannot wait for more Tom Cruise madness in Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning this year.

Where you can watch it: Paramount+ (USA, UK, Australia), Showmax (SA), Binge (Australia), Most VOD Platforms (Worldwide).

43. The Batman

Director: Matt Reeves

Genre/s: Thriller/Mystery/Action Length: 2 Hours 56 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Paul Dano, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, Jayme Lawson

Synopsis: A sadistic serial killer (Paul Dano) is on the loose in Gotham, drawing Bruce Wayne and the Batman (Robert Pattinson) into his game, one that forces him to uncover the ugly truths of the city’s elite as well as his own family’s history.

My Take: With what was one of the most hotly anticipated films of last year, Matt Reeves and co. deliver a much-needed refresher of the comic book super hero movie – a real shot in the heart that is a dark, stylish and dense foray back into the Caped Crusader’s world. Although filled with bombastic action set-pieces (featuring one of the best car chase sequences committed to film), The Batman is a detective film through and through, a gothic noir-epic sporting tonal, thematic and structural hallmarks of Zodiac, Se7en, Chinatown, The French Connection and even the odd visual fluctuations of German Expressionism while also leaning on Frank Miller’s Year One and Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween for inspiration through plot, character and atmosphere. It’s a visual and aural stunner (cinematographer Greig Fraser and composer Michael Giacchino were robbed of Oscar noms) supported by a strong, committed cast with Pattinson giving us a new Bruce Wayne unlike any we have seen before, one that is wrought with pain and internal dread, wearing his true identity before he will soon take the charismatic Bruce Wayne disguise in the sequel. Matt Reeves is smart in how he goes about establishing this new iteration of batman, setting it in his second year and allowing us to move on from the origin story we have seen so many times before. And although it’s his second year, we still see a masked vigilante still new at this: learning new tricks on the job as he gets things wrong and right - well and truly on his way to being the world’s greatest detective as we know him to be. The Batman is a crime epic befitting of just that, a large ensemble driven by assured direction and taught writing. Bring on Chapter II.

Where you can watch it: HBO Max (USA), Showmax (SA), Netflix, Binge (Australia), Most VOD Platforms (Worldwide).

42. The Good Boss

Director: Fernando León de Aranoa

Genre/s: Comedy/Drama Length: 1 Hour 56 Minutes Languages: Spanish/Arabic/Ukrainian Country: Spain

Cast: Javier Bardem, Almudena Amor, Manolo Solo, Sonia Almarcha, María de Nati, Celso Bugallo

Synopsis: Set over the course of a week, Julio Blanco (Javier Bardem) runs a highly successful industrial scales manufacturing business. As he waits for the arrival of a committee that could award him with yet another award for excellence, he races against the clock to resolve problems within his business and personal life that could sabotage his chances.

My Take: As mentioned in a previous list, there were a number of films last year that showed the CEO, or boss of a company having to make tough calls that would become internal battles within their subject – making seemingly impossible decisions that could benefit the business, but rob one of their moral obligations to all that is good and decent. The Good Boss is one of the funniest, most stressful films of the year, a juggling act of greed and moral ambiguity that has its protagonist sinking deeper into the quicksand before he grapples those around him to get out. It’s a film about pats on the back, the moral calls that benefit only one man while he searches for the glory that does nothing but top up his ego and fill his trophy cabinet.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK, Australia).

41. EO

Director: Jerzy Skolimowski

Genre/s: Drama/Adventure Length: 1 Hour 28 Minutes Languages: Polish, English, Italian, French, Spanish Countries: Poland/Italy

Cast: Sandra Drzymalska, Lorenzo Zurzolo, Isabelle Huppert, Mateusz Muranski, Lolita Chammah, Mateusz Kościukiewicz

Synopsis: EO, a circus donkey, goes on a journey across modern Europe, bearing witness to both the good and evil in humanity.

My Take: Somewhat a spiritual remake of Bresson’s Au Hassard Balthazar (1966), EO is just one of two great films this year featuring a donkey as a key character. Here, however, EO is the central character taking us on a journey through humanity’s very best and worst characteristics that thankfully isn’t as depressing as its key influence in Au Hassard, but still remains a heart-aching journey for our four-legged friend. But EO also works as an observer rather than just a victim, director Jerzy Skolimowski along with some truly breathtaking cinematography by Michal Dymek, allows for us to see the world through his eyes; unspooling humanity to its very core: anger, deception, intolerance, malice, friendship and eventually love - an alien POV so unfamiliar to us that we see the world anew in all it’s overwhelming beauty and maddening ugliness.

Where you can watch it: The Criterion Channel, Most VOD Platforms (USA).

40. The Northman

Director: Robert Eggers

Genre/s: Action/Adventure Length: 2 Hours 17 Minutes Languages: English/Old Norse/Ukrainian Counties: USA/China/UK

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman, Oscar Novak, Willem Dafoe, Gustav Lindh, Elliot Rose, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Björk

Synopsis: Adapted from the legend of Amleth (which would go on to inspire Hamlet, which would also go on to inspire The Lion King), The Northman follows Prince Amleth’s (Alexander Skarsgård) quest to avenge the death of his father (Ethan Hawke) at the hands of his treacherous brother (Claes Bang).

My Take: An adaptation of the all-too-familiar legend of Amleth (Hamlet and most recently, The Lion King are to thank for this), auteur and obsessive perfectionist Robert Eggers delivers on his highly anticipated third full-length feature. Although marketed as a historical epic overflowing with grand battles and loads of blood, Eggers manages to keep its scale intimate, showing that his preference for deeper character studies (See his previous two in The Lighthouse and The Witch). It may be far more accessible than his last two but thankfully it’s still really quite weird, tapping into the mysticism of Viking lore that is enchanting, mysterious and barbaric, with Eggers priming his focus on the driving force in Amleth’s tale of vengeance: toxic masculinity. It’s a recurring theme throughout, with Amleth’s blinding devotion to avenging his father eventually consuming him and blinding him to the life that exists outside that parameter. And if he doesn’t do this, he is not the man his father or even his mother expects him to be. The Northman engages this notion in spectacular fashion, eventually driving us into the heart of a blistering volcano: a raging behemoth destined to consume all that enter. Thankfully, it’s also a film that doesn’t look to glorify the violence that Vikings inflicted. Instead, it showcases the cruel brutality of their actions, particularly that of a raid sequence (an incredibly blocked and staged single shot set-piece) and the aftermath that follows, reminiscent of the horrors we have seen in films like Come and See (1985). Bizarre, brutal, violent and consistently spectacular, The Northman is the work of a filmmaker brimming with brilliant madness.

Where you can watch it: Prime Video (USA, Australia), Most VOD Platforms (Worldwide), Binge (Australia).

39. Men

Director: Alex Garland

Genre: Horror/Drama Length: 1 Hour 40 Minutes Language: English Country: UK

Cast: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Paapa Essiedu, Gayle Rankin

Synopsis: Harper (Jessie Buckley) retreats to the English countryside to heal from a personal tragedy. But before she can truly settle in, a mysterious stranger begins to stalk her, prompting her environment to reveal its true, hostile nature.

My Take: Alex Garland’s latest mind-bender is a terrifying repel on our senses and nerves as Harper (Jessie Buckley) finds herself having to come to terms with the trauma of a past relationship and all the men that perpetuate the cycle of poor behaviour, most notably via the act of gaslighting. It may have some metaphors that are a little on-the-nose in regards to this, but the sheer WTF-ness of its final 15 minutes and the constant symbolic imagery of mysterious ancient figures of The Green Man and Sheela-na-gig demand to be unpacked long after the credits roll, allowing Garland’s themes, ideas and allegories to merge and evolve into a lurching beast far more layered and complex than what it says on the tin. Men isn’t for everyone, but polarity is also a sign of good, or at the very least, challenging art. Regardless of what you may think of Men and the execution of its ideas and themes found within, it’s sure to spark fierce debate with audiences, the film community and even yourself. To this day I am still trying to understand and unpack a lot of what I experienced and what any of it could mean through its decadent array of metaphors and symbolism that may or may not be entirely random. But like the Mulholland Drives, Space Odysseys and Mother!’s of the world, I welcome films that do this - testing our ability to interpret and relate to art through discussion and introspection that can be a complete reward in itself. For my extended thoughts, you can catch my review here, where I basically attempt to figure out what just happened in real-time.

Where you can watch it: Showtime (USA), Prime Video (UK, Australia), Most VOD Platforms (Worldwide).

38. Smile

Director: Parker Finn

Genre: Horror/Mystery Length: 1 Hour 55 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Rob Morgan, Caitlin Stasey, Jessie T. Usher, Kal Penn, Gillian Zinser

Synopsis: After witnessing a traumatic event with a patient, a psychiatrist (Sosie Bacon) finds herself constantly threatened and stalked by a mysterious entity.

My Take: Trauma, grief and guilt seem to be the most common theme in horror these days, especially among the artier ones related to studios/distributors like NEON and A24, focusing on the psychological aspects of horror through slow-burns and atmosphere over the cheap jump scare. Thankfully those studios are still delivering the goods even when those ideas appear to be the rage these days so it’s only natural for me to worry about other filmmakers or studios jumping on the bandwagon in making yet another horror movie about grief, trauma and guilt. So naturally, I was a little worried by Smile when I sat down in the cinema as some of those themes started to rear its head. It’s also worth noting that I had lower expectations based on the trailer, pushing to sell the whole “smiling is creepy” trope that has been done to death in so many horror films, bits, etc. But Smile quite simply blew all my expectations out of the water, delivering a clever horror film that is a nice balance between slow-burning psychological dread and absolute “shit my pants” jump scares that don’t feel cheap, but completely earned. It shares major similarities with It Follows in terms of this cosmic entity slowly lurching toward you as we barely make it to the finale. Thankfully the smiling aspect is also not a cheap trope as I expected from the trailer, but makes it a smart metaphor that contextualizes the themes and plot within the film, allowing it to make perfect sense and not just be an easy scare tactic on its viewers and characters found within its world. Without a doubt, one of my favourite surprises of the year that also sports one of the best original scores that is completely terrifying.

Where you can watch it: Prime Video (USA), Paramount+ (USA), Showmax (SA), Most VOD Platforms (Worldwide).

37. Babylon

Director: Damien Chazelle

Genre/s: Comedy/Drama Length: 3 Hours 9 Minutes Language/s: English/Spanish/Italian/Cantonese/French/Hungarian Country: USA

Cast: Diego Calva, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Lun Li, Flea, Samara Weaving, P.J. Byrne, Tobey Maguire

Synopsis: Set during the glitz and glamour of early Hollywood, Babylon tracks the rise and fall of newcomers and veterans alike as the industry evolves at a lightning pace.

My Take: What was billed as one of the biggest upcoming features of 2022, quickly became a box office bomb and probably the most polarized by both audiences and critics to boot. It appears that you either love Babylon or absolutely loathe it. I’m in the former. If the Wolf of Wall Street (2013) was Goodfellas (1990) with yuppies and Boogie Nights (1997) was Goodfellas with porn, then Babylon is Boogie Nights and Wolf of Wall Street with Hollywood – featuring all the comedic and stylistic flairs of those films. I’m a sucker for movies about making movies and although Babylon can be a bit near-sighted in its perception of the industry and how it jades its creators to the magic of it, it’s both a love letter and a middle finger to the industry, one that will either infuriate or delight audience members to the motions of what director Chazelle is clearly going through while making the movie. It’s not just a movie about being burnt-out by the industry, but with themes of aging and learning to adapt in a constantly evolving world, Babylon does more than just be a movie about making movies. And like auteurs from the golden age of Hollywood right up until Michael Cimino’s box office bomb Heaven’s Gate in 1980 (one that effectively killed Hollywood as we knew it at that point, forcing major studios to never allow the same sense of freedom to the all-powerful auteur director), Babylon is a resounding statement from a studio that clearly allowed for Damien Chazelle, one of the most celebrated young filmmakers, to have complete freedom with what he wanted to do and say. He appears to be right up there with a small group of auteurs like Spielberg, Scorsese, Lynch, PTA, Tarantino, Nolan and now Aster to have complete free reign from major studios in what they want to do and say with their canvas. Time will tell if this will damper Chazelle’s creative output going forward (seeing as it fell short of its massive budget at the box office, critical acclaim and Oscar expectations), but I applaud MGM for allowing Chazelle to do just that: be messy, be unhinged and take big swings that will either hit their mark or miss them entirely for the audience. It definitely isn’t for everyone, and despite some of its obvious flaws in surface-level observations, Babylon is a highly ambitious, ugly, sweaty, hyperactive mess of a movie that I couldn’t help but love the absolute shit out of.

Where you can watch it: Paramount+ (USA), Most VOD Platforms (Worldwide).

36. Hold Me Tight

Director: Mathieu Amalric

Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 37 Minutes Languages: French/German Country: France

Cast: Vicky Krieps, Arieh Worthalter, Anne-Sophie Bowen, Vincent Lacoste, Juliette Benveniste

Synopsis: A woman (Vicky Krieps) walks out on her family one morning, leaving her husband to look after their kids by himself.

My Take: Vicky Krieps’ second great performance of 2022 comes in the form of Hold Me Tight, a jagged drama that manipulates and reshapes our perception of its protagonist (played by Krieps) through an intricate non-linear mystery that lies at the heart of it. Think Memento meets Three Colours Blue and A Woman Under the Influence, Hold Me Tight is an alluring domestic drama, with an ever-reliable Vicky Krieps driving the mystery and often confusing motives of her character, allowing for the puzzle pieces to eventually fall in place as we see a woman desperately searching for a new beginning while also trying to hold onto her past. Gorgeously shot by Christophe Beaucarne, each frame feels like a polaroid in motion – a fever dream accentuated by the unreliable perseptive of its protagonist trying her best to hold onto the past and present as she veers off course.

Where you can watch it: MUBI (USA, SA, UK).

35. God’s Country

Director: Julian Higgins

Genre/s: Thriller/Western/Drama Length: 1 Hour 42 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Thandiwe Newton, Joris Jarsky, Jefferson White, Tanaya Beatty, Kai Lennox

Synopsis: A college professor (Thandiwe Newton) who lives on a remote property in the mountains of Montana, finds herself in an escalating battle of wills and intimidation with a pair of hunters who consistently trespass onto her property.

My Take: A slow-burning neo-western set against the snowy backdrop of Montana, God’s Country has Thandiwe Newton delivering one of her very best performances as a woman whose grieving period is stalled thanks to mind games of intimidation and potential violence with a pair of hunters who consistently trespass her property. It’s a tense affair that combines themes of loss, race, class and even discussions of land entitlement that make God’s Country a highly nuanced modern western that is urgent, mournful and brimming with rage. Its suspense grows and grows until the powder keg is lit, allowing for the film’s themes and conflicting emotions to set it on fire, letting it bellow and rage in the wilderness as its protagonist looks to take back the grief that is owed to her. One of 2022’s most overlooked performances in what is one of 2022’s most profound films.

Where you can watch it: AMC+, Most VOD Platforms (USA).

34. Sundown

Director: Michael Franco

Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 22 Minutes Countries: Mexico/France/Sweden Languages: English/Spanish

Cast: Tim Roth, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Samuel Bottomly, Albertine Kotting McMillan, Monica del Carmen

Synopsis: Neil (Tim Roth) vacations with his sister Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her children Samuel Bottomley & Albertine Kotting McMillan) in Mexico. But after a phone call informing them of a death in the family, they are forced to return home, all except Neil who decides to stay behind, abandoning all his responsibilities.

My Take: Exhibiting dashes of Albert Camus’ The Stranger (published 1942), Sundown is an existential mini-masterpiece, a startling internal monologue and battle we are often never part of. It’s a fascinating viewing experience that both alienates and invites us right in as Neil (Tim Roth) undergoes a personal, possibly mid-life crisis that is never explicitly told to us, only letting us assume from what we see. After pretending to lose his passport and letting his family attend the funeral of a family member, he cuts himself from the outside world, choosing to stay and live in this vacation paradise instead – making terribly reckless decisions that could lead to the harming of himself and even his family. Michael Franco’s misdirection and writing is incredibly clever here, allowing us to make assumptions based on truly baffling decisions anchored by motivations that aren’t revealed to us in bare expositional clues. But once the credits role, and you revisit and take in Roth’s unbelievably layered showcase of a man seemingly throwing the towel in (or possibly picking it back up), you start to read between the lines and finally see the whole journey he finds himself battling to come to terms with. He holds us at a distance like everyone else, but most importantly, he lets us be a part of it. It humours, confuses, frustrates, shocks and most importantly, fools us into thinking we know what is going on with Neil, forcing the viewer to go back and try to piece together the why’s of what he is doing, trying our best to sympathize with him in the process. It’s one of the year’s simplest films on paper, but once you read between those lines, becomes one of the most complex, poignant and honest observations of modern life pressure you will see in quite some time.

Where you can watch it: Hulu (USA), Now TV Cinema (UK), Binge (Australia).

33. The Balcony Movie

Director: Pawel Lozinski

Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 40 Minutes Languages: Polish/Russian/English Country: Poland

Synopsis: Taking place entirely from the viewpoint of the director’s balcony, Pawel Lozinski observes and converses with neighbours and strangers passing by, further understanding how each of them goes about coping with their daily lives.

My Take: A personal, simple, yet highly inventive document of daily life, The Balcony Movie is a series of conversations that celebrates the intricacies of human life through its ever-changing backdrop of the seasons as director Pawel Lozinski catches up with neighbours and makes profoundly moving connections with passing strangers: some protecting their deck of cards while others let us take a peak. It’s a stunning film that, although we are getting to know these people from a distance (and one level above ground), it feels so intimate, as though we were right in front of them, delving deeper into not only who they are, but who we are as a whole. It’s quite literally the ideal people-watching movie, a life-affirming work of clarity and purpose.

Where you can watch it: MUBI (USA, Australia).

32. Escape From Kabul

Director: Jamie Roberts

Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 13 Minutes Languages: Arabic, English Countries: UK, France, USA

Synopsis: A frantic account of the tense, desperate confrontation at Kabul airport as the US withdraws from Afghanistan, leaving hundreds and thousands of Afghan citizens desperate to flee from the Taliban as they seize the city.

My Take: The ideal companion piece to Retrograde (number 65 on this list), Escape From Kabul is one of, if not, the most viscerally terrifying piece of filmmaking this year that, although short in running time, is incredibly effective. Set in the final days of the US occupation of Afghanistan, Escape From Kabul documents the harrowing frenzy that ensued leading up to and including the US’s departure from the country, particularly that of Kabul. Retrograde takes place over an extended period of time in various locations, here however, we are situated only at Kabul airport where hundreds of thousands of civilians flocked for safe refuge from the encroaching Taliban forces with the hopes of catching a flight out of the country for good. It’s a real horror show unfolding before our eyes as we see people desperately looking for a way out, from masses stewing and swimming through sewage water to bodies falling from planes taking off. It’s a frightening reminder of the US’s direct impact on the region, that while they claim to spread freedom and democracy, they leave with no real solution for those having to defend their land from the oppressive invaders like the Taliban - striking the match before walking away, leaving the rest to burn in the house with no way out. Escape From Kabul also uses perspective incredibly well. We don’t just talk to US troops and escapees, but also that of current Taliban officials, offering interesting insight into different perspectives of how they saw the situation unfold and who they feel is to blame. But the most powerful aspect of the entire film is footage caught on the ground from all sides that paint the same picture: a resounding defeat for humanity, a tragedy unfolding in real-time as we can only look on in horror and disbelief. One of the most vital films of 2022.

Where you can watch it: HBO Max (USA), Paramount+ (Australia).

31. Aloners

Director: Hong Seong-eun

Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 30 Minutes Language: Korean Country: South Korea

Cast: Gong Seung-yeon, Jeong Da-eun, Seo Hyeon-woo, Joo Suk Tae, Kwak Min-gyu

Synopsis: A solitary woman (Gong Seung-yeon) who is completely content with her isolated existence, begins to re-evaluate her life after her neighbour dies alone in his apartment.

My Take: An effective character study on loneliness, otherness and social indifference. Aloners may not be set during or after a pandemic lockdown, but it could easily be experienced as the ideal post-lockdown film – a work that reminds us of the importance of human connection and empathy. Gong Seung-yeon is extraordinary as protagonist Jina, played with an indifference to her own existence, she is every one of us who ever wanted to switch off from the world but never went through with it – eventually undergoing changes that will force her to reconnect with the world around her, working through instances of unprocessed grief and needing a new change in her life. It could’ve ventured into after-school territory but thanks to Hong Seong-eun’s delicate text and nuanced direction, Aloners becomes a quiet masterpiece, a renaissance of human emotion as we look to return to a life of normalcy once more.

Where you can watch it: MUBI (SA, UK, Australia).

30. Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes

Director: James Jones

Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 36 Minutes Languages: Ukrainian/Russian/English Country: UK

Synopsis: Newly unearthed archival footage bears witness to both the tragedies and heroics of the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster as we look to the past to avoid repeating it in the future.

My Take: The Lost Tapes is a stunning collection of previously-unseen archival footage that takes us back in time to one of the worst nuclear disasters ever, one that would change the course of human history. Archival footage, especially surrounding such pivotal moments in human history, are always a surreal viewing experience, but here, it truly feels otherworldly – a ghost story of a past that is almost impossible to believe existed. It’s a document that is celebratory, somber and angry, a dedication to those lost and those who continue to feel the effects of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, begging us to look to the past so that we may not repeat the same mistakes in the future.

Where you can watch it: HBO Max (USA), Now TV (UK).

29. Turning Red

Director: Domee Shi

Genre/s: Animation/Comedy/Fantasy Length: 1 Hour 40 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Hyein Park, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, James Hong, Jordan Fisher

Synopsis: A thirteen-year-old girl finds herself torn between staying as her mother’s dutiful daughter while trying to traverse the extreme changes that come with adolescence.

My Take: 2022’s other Asian North American story about generational trauma (Everything Everywhere all at Once), Turning Red is colourful, heartfelt and consistently hysterical – a worthy new family member in Pixar’s arsenal. Director/writer Domee Shi creates a gorgeously realised world steeped in the nostalgia of her youth, a love letter to Toronto, her friends, boybands, first periods, cuddly red pandas and of course her family. But it’s not just about those things. Generational trauma and the need to break from that cycle is what allows Turning Red to hit all the right notes. Unfairly overlooked by audiences, with some calling it impossible to relate to, needs to get in the bin. It’s overwhelmingly relatable as not just a thoughtful coming-of-age story and the growing pains of puberty, but also one that allows us to peer into our own history: forcing us to unpack and break the cycles that weigh not only ourselves down, but our families in the now and especially in the future.

Where you can watch it: Disney+ (Worldwide).

28. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Director: Eric Appel

Genre/s: Comedy/Music Length: 1 Hour 48 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Will Forte, Spencer Clark, David Bloom, Julianne Nichoulson, Toby Huss, Thomas Lennon, Arturo Castro, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nina West, Jack Black, Conan O’Brien, Diedrich Bader, Patton Oswald, Akiva Schaffer, Demitri Martin, Josh Groban, David Dastmalchian

Synopsis: the rise and fall and rise again of Polka sensation “Weird Al” Yankovic that is either completely true or an absolute lie.

My Take: The music biopic has gotten extremely stale. It’s often the same song and dance built around the same formula that we have seen time and time again: Young kid is a nobody, becomes a somebody, insert montage of success, insert montage of the bad times, they find redemption (and/or die), etc. etc. blah blah blah. So of course it’s “Weird” Al Yankovic, a literal gamechanger in parody music to come and make a music biopic about himself that is in itself an extended parody of the music biopic: an anything goes recollection of events that most certainly didn’t happen. Even casting Daniel Radcliff as Weird Al seems to fall perfectly in line with what the film wants to do: be the anti-biopic. Radcliff is clearly having a blast here, and along with the endless who’s who of funny men and woman showing up, it’s impossible not to fall for the spell that is the Weird Al movie that gets funnier with each rewatch.

Where you can watch it: The Roku Channel (USA), Paramount+ (Australia).

27. Prey

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Genre/s: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Survival Length: 1 Hour 40 Minutes Language: English/French/Comanche Country: USA

Cast: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Michelle Thrush, Stefany Mathias, Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat, Mike Paterson

Synopsis: Set 300 years before the events of the first Predator film (1987), Naru, a Comanche woman, looks to become a great hunter instead of a healer – a role expected of her to inhabit. But once a Predator arrives to find and hunt the most dangerous animal on Earth, she is forced to do battle with it to not only survive, but also prove her worth as a formidable warrior.

My Take: Prey was always going to be a major risk, and it’s a damn shame that 20th Century Fox didn’t bite the bullet and drop it in theatres, but I am just grateful we finally got a Predator film worthy of the original: a back-to-basics white-knuckled period sci-fi actioner that rules far harder than I ever imagined it would. Thanks to Dan Trachtenberg’s knack for visual storytelling as well as Amber Midthunder's outstanding lead performance, we are gifted a Predator film as good as, if not, for me at least, even better (don’t @ me, bro) than the original. It’s a clever, nerve-shredding, and inventively brutal survival film worthy of going toe-to-toe with the ’87 original. It’s also an important piece of inclusive filmmaking, casting mostly Indigenous American actors, produced by an Indigenous American Woman and sporting a Comanche dub that enriches the experience even further on repeated viewings. Hollywood take note, this is how you reboot a dwindling franchise. Predator is back, baby. You can find my extended thoughts for Prey in this review.

Where you can watch it: Hulu (USA), Disney+ (Worldwide).

26. 1970

Director: Tomasz Wolski

Genre/s: Documentary/Animation/Experimental Length: 1 Hour 10 Minutes Language: Polish Country: Poland

Synopsis: Told entirely through recorded phone calls between each of the dignitaries and re-enacted with stop-motion animation using puppets; in 1970, protests broke out across Communist Poland as workers went on strike to object price increases. As tensions rose, a crisis team quickly crushed these protests with force and intimidation.

My Take: In what is quite easily the most inventive documentary I saw in 2022, 1970 is a disturbing, sobering account of abuse of power. Centering around the bloody worker’s protests that took place in the film’s titular year, 1970 re-enacts the phone calls that took place during that time with the use of puppets – unflattering caricatures of their subjects as they lurk around in the dark making the phone calls that would lead to the tragic circumstances. But it’s not the animation that is the most disturbing aspect of 1970, it’s the content of the phone calls instead. Thankfully Tomasz Wolski knows this, and by providing the bare minimum of historical context through text on the screen, he allows for the perpetrators to do all the talking – to paint the picture of reckless decisions driven by needless arrogance and complete disdain for human life and decency. One of the most unique viewing experiences you will see in quite some time.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD Platforms (Europe).

to be continued...

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