(This article is part of our Best of 2022 series.)
Best of 2022 — this is tough! I hate whittling down lists, and I’m already annoyed with the stuff I’ve had to drop. Honorable mentions include Aftersun, The Banshees of Inisherin, Belle, Blue Jean, Close, Elvis, Playground, Small Body, Top Gun: Maverick, and The Worst Person in the World.
A breathless, maximalist assault on the senses that cares as much about visual spectacle as its core melodrama, Romain Gavras’s thrilling, chaotic urban epic Athena treats a modern, localized conflict with the kind of grandiosity typically reserved for historical drama. The story revolves around civil unrest in the wake of a young man’s death, the latest in a long line of injustices that can be blamed on the police abusing their power. The three brothers of the young man killed are at odds with one another, and the situation – which starts with a bang in the first place – progressively intensifies. By leaning into the kind of narrative contrivances usually avoided for fear of being corny, Athena is brought closer to the Greek tragedy template it aims for, and while the ending is understandably contentious I choose to read it as more of a complicating factor than a cop-out.
Shoplifters director Hirokazu Kore-eda builds on the themes explored in his Palme d’Or-winning effort with the uniquely intimate melodrama Broker. Following a desperate mother who abandons her son in a baby box, the men who try to sell the child, and the police following them, this found family tragicomedy stars Song Kang-ho (Parasite, Memories of Murder) in a role that led him to the Best Actor prize at Cannes this year. Song shares the screen with Bae Doona — familiar to audiences from her work with Bong Joon-Ho, Park Chan-Wook and The Wachowskis — and K-Pop star IU. The charismatic cast of criminals find themselves on a road trip, and the film is at its most enjoyable when spending time with the mismatched characters bonding through their common goal despite their disparate motivations and clashing personalities. Hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure, Broker is not to be missed.
Decision to Leave
Park Chan-wook’s follow-up to 2016’s incredible The Handmaiden nabbed him Best Director at Cannes, and it’s easy to see why. A thrilling, romantic mystery starring Tang Wei as the wife of a dead man who is initially suspected to have killed him, Decision To Leave takes you on a wild ride as Park Hae-il conducts an investigation and becomes a little obsessed with her. And she him. Impeccably shot and performed, and full of great moments from start to finish — including what I am confident in saying is the best response to having a knife pulled on you in the history of cinema — the film lingers, and is high on the list of best things I saw in 2022.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
What to say about Everything Everywhere All At Once that hasn’t already been said a million times? Goofy in the extreme, and in all the best ways, while at the same time completely sincere and heartfelt, the frenetically-paced multidimensional family drama is one of the most purely entertaining 2022 movies this side of Tom Cruise back in a cockpit. A welcome showcase for Michelle Yeoh’s range and a welcome return for Ke Huy Quan that has rocketed Daniels to superstar director status, I absolutely love EEAAO. Despite its broad appeal, it’s not for everyone, which is becoming more and more apparent as we get deeper into awards season, but if this particular flavor of film works for you, it’s probably been a while since you’ve had a similar experience, and will likely be a while before you have another. Worth savoring.
I’ve never been more grateful for the reputation of a movie to snowball the way RRR’s did, and find an audience outside of the one films from its scene usually target. SS Rajamouli is one of the biggest names in Indian cinema and I, along with many others, was unaware of not just him, but the pre-release hype for this movie in particular. Lucky enough to see this on the big screen, though unfortunately not with a huge crowd, I was in awe of RRR’s scale, joyfulness, melodrama, and style. The performances of the English-speaking characters leave a lot to be desired, but there’s so much else to appreciate that I’m more than happy to overlook that.
What are your thoughts on my five favorite films from the past year? Share them below!