As Covid restrictions lifted in the early months of 2022, hopes were high that cinema-going might rebound in style. There were some big tentpole movies on the horizon, and a backlog of stalled productions should have meant that film lovers were in for a treat. Didn’t quite work out that way though, as public fears about sitting in dark and crowded rooms persisted, and some high profile blockbusters underperformed disastrously.
he watchable but overpraised Top Gun: Maverick was the year’s big success story, proving that Tom Cruise’s star power is undimmed, and Marvel releases like Wakanda Forever, Thor: Love and Thunder and Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness did very solid business for Disney. But it was hard work for the smaller fish at the multiplexes this year, and a curious lack of sparkle bedevilled the summer months.
There were some very good films, though, most of them not produced by the big studios and streamers, and their number included possibly the greatest Irish film of all time. Here’s my pick of the 20 best films of 2022.
20 Nothing Compares
If Sinéad O’Connor’s achievements as a singer, musician and activist are sometimes overlooked, Kathryn Ferguson’s incisive documentary represents a timely reminder. Using archive footage, and thoughtful spoken contributions from Sinéad herself, Nothing Compares focuses on O’Connor’s childhood, youth, and astonishing early success, when she took America by storm but was not prepared to sacrifice her principles for the sake of her career.
A weird and wonderful sci-fi adventure with stirring societal undercurrents, Jordan Peele’s Nope was the summer’s brainiest and most satisfying blockbuster. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer played Otis and Emerald Heywood, children of a celebrated horse trainer who struggle to maintain his ranch after he dies. Otis wants to keep the place going, Em thinks he should sell it, and meanwhile they catch strange sightings of what might just be a UFO. Nope might not always make sense, but it’s absolutely compelling.
18 See How They Run
Very much in the spirit of Agatha Christie, and set on the fringes of a 1963 production of her play The Mousetrap, Tom George’s whodunnit caper stars Sam Rockwell as Inspector Stoppard, a boozy Scotland Yard hack who’s sent to a West End theatre to investigate a murder. An obnoxious American director called Leo Kopernick has been found dead, and the list of suspects is long. Saoirse Ronan steals the show playing an over-eager police constable — her comic timing is impeccable.
It wasn’t until 1975 that abortion was legalised in France. Until that point the country remained deeply conservative and Catholic in parts, and unmarried pregnant girls faced the same stark choices they did in Ireland. One such is Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a 1960s literature student whose big ambitions are threatened when she finds out she’s pregnant. The world abortion is not mentioned once in Audrey Diwan’s spare and moving film, nor is the novel idea that a woman in Anne’s predicament ought to have the final say in what happens to her body next.
Winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes last year, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic’s outstanding debut feature is a coming of age story without sentiment, full of bite. Julija (Gracija Filipovic) is a clever teenager who spends most of her time swimming in the crystal waters beside her Dalmatian home. But she’s tired of her overbearing father, blames her mother for not having left him, and when an old family friend turns up for a visit, all bets are off. The ensuing psychodrama is played out against the steely blue backdrop of the Adriatic, and Gracija Filipovic is outstanding as Julija, a sea-nymph with a will of iron.
Frances O’Connor has long been a fan of Wuthering Heights, and catches some of that novel’s furious emotion in this imaginative biopic. A well cast Emma Mackey is Emily Bronte, who has grown up wild in a small village on the Yorkshire Moors, where she’s known to locals as the “strange one”. Tired of living in the shadow of her goody-goody sister Charlotte, Emily finds forbidden love with a dashing curate, and is inspired to write a story of her own.
In this warm and winning biopic, Kenneth Branagh paints a moving picture of his lost Northern Irish childhood. Nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) is living with his parents (Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe) in a closely knit north Belfast enclave in 1969 when the Troubles erupt. Civil rights marches, and the furious response of the Orange state, have led to wide unrest, and Buddy is heartbroken when his parents announce that they will be emigrating to England, because that will mean leaving his beloved grandparents (Ciarán Hinds, Judi Dench) behind. A delightful film.
Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul is a kind of visionary, and in previous films has half-persuaded me that the dead walk among us. Up for any kind of spooky challenge is Tilda Swinton, who in Memoria plays Jessica, an Englishwoman living in Colombia whose peace of mind is derailed by a curious sound. She’s having coffee with a friend when she hears an ominous sonic boom: no one else seems aware of it, and Jessica begins to wonder if the noise has something to do with a set of ancient bones archaeologists have recently unearthed. Memoria unfolds at a stately pace, and its style won’t be for everyone, but I loved it.
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12 Official Competition
Spit flies when two hams collide on a film set in this inspired Spanish satire. A vain old billionaire has decided to finance an arthouse film. It will be directed by arthouse darling Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz), who casts the great theatre actor Iván Torres (Oscar Martinez) and flashy film actor Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) as warring brothers. The two men loathe one another on sight, and as Lola begins rehearsals, Iván and Félix do their level best to sabotage each other. Witty, eccentric and full of hidden depths.
11 She Said
A timely meditation on the Harvey Weinstein case, Maria Schrader’s knotty drama stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, the New York Times journalists whose stories directly led to the movie mogul’s arrest and conviction for rape. For many decades, Weinstein had been abusing his power to assault and traumatise young women, and Twohey and Kantor’s investigation depended on getting some of the women to talk. This film is gripping and superbly acted.
10 Parallel Mothers
At 72, Pedro Almodóvar has lost none of his fire, and in Parallel Mothers tackles a deadly serious theme — the hidden graves containing those disappeared by Falangist death squads during the Spanish Civil War. Penélope Cruz is Janis, a Madrilena fashion photographer who’s giving birth to her first child when she bonds with a pregnant teenager. Meanwhile, Janis has become the driving force behind a campaign to excavate a Civil War grave near her rural hometown. Almodóvar is at his best here, marrying soap opera twists to the thorny themes of motherhood, displacement and loss.
9 The Souvenir Part II
In Joanna Hogg’s 2019 memoir The Souvenir, Honor Swinton Byrne played Julie, a driven young film student who falls in love with Anthony (Tom Burke), a shady character who claims to be a diplomat but is actually a drug addict. He died, Julie carried on, and in this fascinating sequel tries to get her life back together. She’s traumatised by Anthony’s death, attends a therapist and receives financial help from her well-meaning parents. Honor Swinton Byrne is excellent in the main role, and her real-life mother Tilda Swinton is a study in restraint as her stiff but kindly mama.
8 Moonage Daydream
Brett Morgan’s documentary uses archive footage and voiceovers from the man himself to tell David Bowie’s remarkable story. Granted access to the singer’s personal archive, Morgan spent four years assembling this autobiographical kaleidoscope which proceeds in non-linear fashion and has a freedom of form which perfectly suits its subject. No talking heads here, no learned assessments — just Bowie himself, musing on life and art, mortality and how to cope with it. He coped pretty well.
Scottish director Charlotte Wells’ debut feature is a mesmerising meditation on memory, trauma and guilt. In the 1990s, divorced dad Calum (Paul Mescal) has come to Turkey on a budget holiday with his pre-teen daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio). They’re close, but Calum seems sad, preoccupied. There is another layer to the story, because all of this is being remembered in the present by the adult Sophie, who’s recalled the holiday so many times that her memories are worn out and faded. Aftersun is a little gem.
6 Decision to Leave
Korean director Park Chan-wook’s lush thriller is set in the port city of Busan, where depressed cop Hae-Joon (Park Hae-il) is called to investigate the death of a wealthy rock climber, whose twisted body has been found at the bottom of a local peak. Did he fall, or was he pushed? Almost as soon as he meets the man’s widow, Seo-rae (Tang Wei), a beautiful Chinese immigrant, Hae-Joon grows suspicious. Park Chan-wook’s film uses the crime genre as a frame in which to explore the complexity of human relationships.
Set in postwar London and based on Akira Kurosawa’s film Ikiru, Living boasts a superb performance from Bill Nighy. Veteran civil servant Mr Williams has been commuting from the home counties to his pen-pushing office job for decades, and his underlings live in fear of his mania for precision. But when he finds out he only has six months to live, Williams realises that he has wasted his entire existence, and becomes obsessed with building a slum playground his own department has blocked.
4 Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
It’s a case of go big or go home for Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig in this hilarious sequel to Knives Out. As Glass Onion opens, master detective Benoit Blanc receives a curious invitation. Tech billionaire Miles Bron is throwing a select party on his island paradise, and has invited his closest friends. The party has a murder mystery theme, but when someone really gets killed, a visibly delighted Blanc must fire up the famous neurons and investigate. A delightful slice of snarky ensemble comedy.
3 Banshees of Inisherin
Set on a remote Atlantic island during our Civil War, Martin McDonagh’s Banshees of Inisherin tells a minor tragedy in a major key. Fiddler Colm ( Brendan Gleeson) and amiable small farmer Pádraic ( Colin Farrell) have been friends for years, until one day Colm decides he’s had enough. “I don’t like you any more,” he tells a crestfallen Pádraic, and things go rapidly downhill from there. There’s a Grecian grandeur to McDonagh’s storytelling in this, his best film yet, by some distance.
Gaspar Noé’s soulful drama stars Dario Argento and Francoise Lebrun as an elderly couple confronting their mortality. A pair of veteran hippie activists, ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ love each other, but age and illness have parted them, as Noé makes clear by shooting them in split screen. He has a heart condition, she a form of dementia, and while he’s intent on finishing a book about cinema and dreams, he worries his wife may wander out of the house while he’s not looking, and be lost forever. Honest and fearless.
1 An Cailín Ciúin
A work of astonishing clarity, Colm Bairéad’s Irish language adaptation of Claire Keegan’s short story stars Catherine Clinch as Cáit, a quiet and shy nine-year-old who’s sent to stay with distant cousins when her harried mother becomes pregnant — again. It’s 1981, and Cáit has grown used to the stern indifference of her parents, but when childless couple Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and Séan (Andrew Bennett) open their hearts to her, everything changes. A sombre, haunting, beautiful film, perhaps the best Irish feature I’ve ever seen.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/the-20-best-films-of-2022-ranked-42232964.html The 20 best films of 2022 – ranked