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[Opinion] Best Films of 2022 So Far

16 Jul 2022

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Disclaimer: Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpoilerTV.

You may have seen my best television shows of the year so far list - in which you'll be aware that I'm doing this, as someone who is based in the UK, by UK releases. There isn't much overlap between UK/US TV shows but the difference in film release dates is markedly vast so there's no Crimes of the Future, no new Peter Strickland, no new After Yang yet in the UK, Petite Maman came out last year and almost topped my best films of the year list - in fact, a lot of these movies were part of last year's Oscar race - so there'll be no stranger to the conversation and may have been out for a while in your country. This list - as with the TV one, is unranked - hence the lack of numbers, and feel free to leave your favourite movies of the year in the comments below!

Memoria | Apichatpong Weerasethakul is probably the most interesting director around right now; his rich career of slow cinema ranging from his debut, Mysterious Objects at Noon, to a cult favourite in Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives is richly experimental and completely genre-bendingly unique. In a collaboration with a Tilda Swinton; he gives us this lyrical masterpiece, focusing on a Scottish orchid farmer who visits her ill sister in Columbia, experiencing loud bangs at night that prevent her from getting any sleep. You’ll need to get on Memoria’s wavelength to fully appreciate it – slow cinema is called such, for a reason – but if you embrace it it’ll stay on your mind long after its gone, a haunted movie full of reflection and rich imagery. Existing both above and beyond our comprehension; regardless of whether you’ll vibe with it – you cannot admit anything but Memoria being the most unique movie of the year so far.

Top Gun: Maverick | Yes, military propaganda (although given how the original wrote the rulebook on military propaganda in movies to the point where its execution of that is in the literal history books, this criticism can feel a bit tired in this circumstance for Top Gun) – but you can’t help but be swept along in the ride that’s made from people who so deeply love their craft, a commentary on Tom Cruise himself as much as it is the character Maverick, Joseph Kosinski understands what legacy sequels work, and the film manages to drag the most ’80s film to ever ‘80s’d into a new era, with the heart, thrills and entertainment value to boot – making you fall in love with all its characters and the dynamic that is created almost instantly.

Boiling Point | Stephen Graham puts in the best performance of the year so far in this glorious one-shot movie of a restaurant in London experiencing all its worst days all at once, Table 7 are being irritating, employees are bunking off work, there’s an argument between front and back of house that threatens to spiral out of control, someone with a nut allergy arrives, a proposal is due to take place and a celebrity chef arrives in the building catching up with an old friend. If you’ve worked in hospitality before Boiling Point will feel instantly relatable – and completely authentic - as it pushes everything to a limit that will have you on edge. If you've been enjoying Hulu's The Bear, maybe go back and check this one out.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy | Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car got nominated for best foreign language film this year and he also earned a best director nomination, but really – the film that everyone should be talking about is Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, a Chungking Express for the 2020s – a myriad of love triangles, seduction traps and an encounter that spirals out of a misunderstanding told across three episodes in this unique anthology structure that focuses around three female characters and explores their choices and regrets simultaneously. It’s literary cinema from a director who made a five hour film feel like ninety minutes – 2015’s Happy Hour – and with each film, finds something new to say about life.

Nightmare Alley | Guillermo del Toro’s epic crafts a love letter to the noir genre – far more than just a ‘men are bad, monsters are good’ trope that most of his work seems to be associated with, this tale of spinsters, con-artists, fraudsters and honest folk trying to make a living in the interwar years spirals out of control in its third act where Bradley Cooper, an upstart carnival man enters the big-game leagues and finds himself completely out of his depth opposite Cate Blanchett. You know the ending’s coming about an hour before it does – but it’s the sublime way that del Toro handles it in that it never feels dull, beautifully shot and incredibly elaborate on a scale that shows a craftsman revelling in his work.

The Worst Person in the World | Joachim Trier’s film captures four years in the life of a mid-20 something Julie, who navigates her love life whilst figuring out her career – falling in love with a comic book artist played by Anders Danielsen Lie and dealing with the consequences of that as it unfolds. Trier’s film feels completely shameless and unafraid to let its lead be complex, flawed and a nuanced character – the Sally Rooney comparisons are obvious but The Worst Person in the World lingers on your mind a lot more than Normal People or Conversations with Friends, unafraid to let messy people be messy people.

Bergman Island | Mia Hansen-Løve’s ode – and criticism – of the auteur theory provides a backdrop for one of the most unique observations of filmmaking through the lense of an English-German couple who go on a retreat to the place that inspired Ingmar Bergman’s works as a filmmaker. The beauty of this film means that you don’t have to be familiar with Bergman’s works to see what it’s aiming for – it tears down the structure of auteurism and the apparent need for great directors to be horrible people. Such a meta movie tackling the complexities of writing in all its forms – Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth are both excellent, and its complex portrayal of humanity makes this film a must see.

Ali & Ava | The best romantic drama of the year – Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook are excellent, with Ali & Ava meeting through their shared affection for Sofia, the child of Ali’s tenants whom Ava teachers. Both coming from different backgrounds with people determined to keep them apart – Ali’s living with his ex in the middle of separation but hasn’t told his family, and Ava’s racist son from a past relationship is horrified when she finds who she’s bought home. The film is complex, nuanced and will send you on a string of emotions with a pitch-perfect soundtrack, distinctively a Northern movie that captures a unique part of the UK’s class dynamics, and Clio Barnard is such a wonderful actors’ director, allowing the charm of both Rushbrook and Akhtar to shine through – rare has human emotion been captured more honestly on screen.

Everything Everywhere All At Once | An onslaught of the senses; maximalist cinema at its most indulgent and a great example of the brilliance of Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All At Once pushes the multiverse concept to its limits and proves that too much of one thing isn't always bad for you. The genre homages are everywhere, but at its core, it's a film full of heart and soars on the back of that.

Benediction | My first encounter with Terence Davies instantly made me a fan – a brilliant character study of the poet Siegfried Sassoon who was decorated for bravery on the Western Front. This feels entirely personal and reflective of the poet’s compassionate and angry poems about the second world war, avoiding the sentimentality of its peers. Jack Lowden and Peter Capaldi both play Sassoon at different points in his life, both delivering among the best performances of the year of a richly complex character with the subtlety and formality that the creator commands. Will only grow on me with a rewatch, which I’m already planning – completely devastating.

Kimi | One of the best movies to come out of the shot-during-the-height-of-the-pandemic wave, Kimi is Soderbergh flexing his creative muscles with a paranoia-inducing thriller featuring Zoe Kravitz as its lead, a tech worker discovering evidence of a violent crime while reviewing a data stream and fighting to prove it. One of the best Rear Window remakes ever to hit cinema, Kimi moves like a breeze – tightly paced at 89 minutes and completely superb in its anti-capitalist approach, bringing to mind movies like Blow Out and capturing the anxiety of the lead character when facing with existential threats like this. As a surveillance thriller, Soderbergh gives us one of his best work, period.

The Quiet Girl | Evoking films like last year’s Petite Maman, The Quiet Girl is an instant Irish classic from Colm Bairéad shot entirely in the Gaelic language as it follows a quiet, neglected girl sent away from her dysfunctional family to new relatives for the summer where she blossoms under their care. Catherine Clinch’s performance is extraordinarily good – understated is the watchword here, and its restraint leads to a deeply heart-warming experience with the smallest of triumphs.

The Tragedy of Macbeth | Joel Coen – departing from his collaboration with Ethan Coen, gives us the most spellbindingly unique take on one of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays yet, an example of a sheer visual treat – benefiting from the stellar cinematography of Bruno Delbonnell who opts for a black-and-white narrative that gets the most out of a commanding lead performance by Denzel Washington who captures one of Shakespeare’s most unique plays, opposite Frances McDormand’s Lady Macbeth in an inspired pairing. The two command your attention on screen; showing Joel Coen’s mastery of the bard – there’ll never be a better portrayal of witches in cinema too.

Parallel Mothers | Pedro Almodóvar’s criticism of Spanish History and the Civil War brings the past to the present in this deeply personal character study that starts out as a different movie entirely: two unmarried women who have become pregnant by accident meet in a hospital room – and their lives are changed forever. Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit are inseparable together – instant chemistry on-screen and off, and the film feels more alive and vibrant than anything else in modern American cinema – the colours bounce off the wall at you with the sheer passion that Almodóvar has for his craft.

Ambulance | Yes, if you’d have told me at the start of the year a Michael Bay movie would be on that list – I’d have given you that look too – but this feels like the best video game movie ever – an adaption of Grand Theft Auto V in all but name, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II embarking with Eiza González on a high octane chase around the city. Bay, shameless enough to reference his own movies – is clearly having the time of his life with unique drone-fuelled camera shots – and the pace never feels dire or tiresome as a result – never outstaying its welcome. It’s a Bay movie – but it’s also his most coherent and reigned in extravangaza since Bad Boys and The Rock – resulting in arguably, the best of his career.

RRR | S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR is the smash hit of the year so far – a maximalist history of two legendary revolutionaries and their journey away from home before they began fighting for their country in the 1920s. N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan is an inspired pairing – the two have chemistry that is evident in the script – and just when you think the movie’s topped itself with one spectacular action set-piece it throws another at you; and a musical dance sequence for good measure! All singing, all-dancing, all-action epic RRR shows Hollywood everything it has been missing out on these past few years.

The Batman | Matt Reeves’ noir love-letter to DC Comics is a Zodiac-inspired David Fincher-esque masterpiece with Robert Pattinson as the caped crusader in this Gothic noir that substitutes Gotham for shots of Glasgow and Liverpool, giving a morbid detective-driven storyline that calls from plenty of iterations of the comics in a fusion of movies and graphic novels where the influences are evident everywhere you look. This is a film that also has something new to say: a film that isn’t bogged down by the weight of a need to be a cinematic universe movie, offering up a stellar performance from Pattinson as the most brooding, downbeat and anti-social Bruce Wayne yet. This is a Bruce who has none of his predecessors’ charms, and is learning how to be both Bruce Wayne and Batman at the same time: an origin story that doesn’t feel like an origin story in the slightest is a thing to behold, and if you’re a fan of Batman the Detective rather than Batman the superhero, you’ll find yourself right at home here.

Licorice Pizza | Paul Thomas Anderson explores a toxic relationship between a high school student moonlighting as a successful child actor and a 20-something young woman with political aspirations in the San Fernando Valley in 1970s. Cooper Hoffman’s Gary Valentine falls in love with Alana Haim’s Kane from the moment they meet, but it’s initially a one-sided affair. What follows is a back-and-forth between the two that feels like a hangout movie; Alana being caught up in Gary’s schemes, Gary’s schemes being used as a representative to capture the tone of the era (he gets in on the water bed hype of the 70s before everyone else), and it’s a testament to both Haim and Hoffman that you’re able to watch this movie fly through even its most laid-back scenes; they’re a natural pair – and on top of that, the soundtrack is just superb – the musical montage set to Life on Mars where Gary walks through the streets as the cars have run out of petrol around him is spectacular. A romance about the messiness, eternal chaos of love that feels like a nostalgic letter to the ‘70s.

The Souvenir Part II | Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir duology may be the most extraordinary duology of the past ten years – now freed from her toxic relationship with a manipulative older man; Julie begins to work out who she as a person in the process of making her graduate film – exploring her relationships with her colleagues, who include a glorious self-aware Richard Ayoade, and her family – with Tilda Swinton, Honor Swinton Byrne’s real-life mother, playing her parent in this one. It’s a movie that feels like a proper ending, not just a lifeless continuation – both parts are very much part of the same whole and Hogg uses The Souvenir Part II as a way to unpack her own trauma and grief. It’s meta – but much of that is down to Ayoade.

Flee | A stunningly animated minor masterwork from Jonas Poher Rasmussen, this film follows Amin from his life as an unaccompanied minor who arrives in Denmark from Afghanistan to 36, where he is getting married to his long-term boyfriend and on the verge of telling his story. It’s an arresting, powerful example that unfortunately so many have to fight for basic things that many of us take for granted – entirely raw and powerful; working both as a documentary and animation, in which it was nominated for both categories – and best foreign language picture, at the Oscars, becoming the first film to do all three.

Mass | Fran Kranz’s harrowing; painful and intimate film focuses on the parents of two children in the aftermath of a violent tragedy – and they let their feelings be heard in a conversation as the movie reckons with the tragic loss of life that has occurred in American schools as a direct result of its sheer lack of any form of gun safety control. Moving and tense – the tragic grief of the four parents is felt in a way that makes this film instantly hard to watch – too timely for some, but those who do check it out will be rewarded with a rich portrayal of empathy, forgiveness and grief – Martha Plimpton, Jason Isaacs, Reed Birney and Ann Dowd take a bow.

The Northman | More than just a retelling of Hamlet (the source material that The Northman was inspired on predates Hamlet), this is a Gladiator for the Viking age – a bleak, harsh portrayal of a world that is incredibly hostile to live in. Eggers’ brutality captures a descent into hell - Alexander Skarsgård’s quest for vengeance is a completely unforgiving one; fuelled with a heavy dosage of Norse mythology. Claes Bang feels like a real; palpable threat – and Anya Taylor-Joy continues her streak of being in good things and being very good in them.

We’re All Going to the World’s Fair | Jane Schoenbrun’s found-footage film feels like the next evolution on from the likes of Unfriended, Anna Cobb’s performance is completely immersive in a role that follows the blurring of reality and fantasy when a teenager begins to immerse herself in a role-playing online horror game. This film gets loneliness and depression unlike few other – creating a distinct eerie headspace that could’ve gone in a variety of different ways – but ended up picking the right one for a closed off, outsider-looking in on society perspective that makes this movie feel so real.

Lingui, the Sacred Bonds | Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s film is an eye into an incredibly prejudiced society and focuses on the resilience of Chadian women in the face of such cruelty. Mother and daughter presented on a united front rather than being torn apart; Lingui the Sacred Bonds avoids the typical pitfalls of movies like this – vividly heartfelt in its depiction of well, everything, shining on the back of minimalist, naturalistic dialogue.

Elvis | Baz Lurhmann, you absolute madman. A great example of maximalist cinema that could only do Elvis Presley justice – uniquely told from the perspective of Colonel Tom Parker in a way that shows us the oppressive forces set out to control Elvis’ career that he never fully broke free of. It’s a heart-breaking watch – Austin Butler delivers a best actor winning, surely, performance that captures his rise to fame and his downfall – and given its epic length, it’s a testament to Elvis’ success that it just works wonders and keeps you invested for all of its running time. Full of pop ballads (including, bizarrely, Doja Cat, which works better than it has any right to), Elvis casts Parker as a puppet-master and has Presley dance to his strings.

Jackass Forever | It’s Jackass – you know what you’re getting. But this was surprisingly heartfelt even for a movie that’s essentially watching people out-idiot each other; with stunts that will leave you thinking “they’re not actually going to do that, are they?” and then not only being surprised as they go ahead and do it anyway – but also somehow find a way to top it with whatever comes next. Pure cinema – exactly what you’d expect from a movie that has its lead state with a sense of accomplishment: “We have 15 gallons of pig semen!” With the heart that leads to statements like that - how could this thing end up anywhere but on this list?

Everything Went Fine | Ozon has been quietly making excellent movies for the past few years now and Everything Went Fine is another excellent example of him at his best – raising the questioning moral dilemma of having its lead wrestling with the fact that she’s just been told by her father that he wants her to end his life. Emmanuelle weighs up the consequences as the film progresses – with an astounding performance by both Sophie Marceau and André Dussollier in the lead roles – Everything Went Fine feels like a great example of how characters react in a situation like this, whilst also being funnier than you’d expect.

Great Freedom | Sebastian Meise’s exploration of the prison system in post-war Germany is heart-breaking, following Hans Hoffman, who is repeatedly imprisoned under Paragraph 175 which criminalizes homosexuality. His quest for freedom is the driving force of the movie – made all the more powerful by Franz Rogowski, who may be the best actor currently working.

Compartment No. 6 | Juho Kuosmanen’s Compartment No. 6 is superb – a rewarding portrayal of love and finding humanity in a desolate train that runs from Moscow to the artic port of Murmansk. Seidi Haarla and Yuriy Borisov are superb sharing a stellar natural chemistry with each other; a Before Sunrise for the 2020s – finding loneliness and connection in the most unwelcoming of terrains.

Ennio: The Maestro | A fantastic, towering ode to the legendary Ennio Morricone from the man who bought you Cinema Paradiso; Giuseppe Tornatore, a prior collaberation with the artist, Ennio is a resounding documentary that rewards, informs and delights in equal measure, showing the sheer variety of Morricone’s work from few better directors who understand him. Like The Sparks Brothers documentary last year; Ennio spares no expense in covering both the highest highs and the lowest lows of Morricone’s career – and offers a reminder that he’s not just the greatest movie composer, he’s the greatest composer – period.

This Much I Know to Be True | As always with Nick Cave; his music docs are completely personal - a window into a unique talent who's been faced with such tragic loss in his personal life. He opens with a sense of grim gallows humour - the government, during the pandemic - suggested that UK artists retrain and adopt new skills to make up of their lack of income so he takes up the trade of ceramics. It isn't long before the music starts - his exploration of lockdown albums Ghosteen and Carnage is a powerful work of art - emotion depicted on screen in a beautiful way. The optimism here is something of a triumph in the face of all odds - and long live the Andrew Dominik/Nick Cave & Warren Ellis collaboration. They keep finding ways to surprise us - you'll be caught up in the almost-euphoric moments of certain songs when they happen - never has Cave's music been more cinematic - and the rest is history.

Taming the Garden | Salome Jashi’s ambitions documentary casts a small island in the middle of an ocean; and looks at a former prime minister of Georgia’s quest to build it, using the film as a backdrop to explore Georgian society and forced migration – “uprooting” is decidedly moreso than just a metaphor here – with the film slowing down the process to a crawl but allowing you to bask in its wonder; even if at the same time, you’re watching a documentary create an entirely man-made landscape invasive of nature.

Tigers | Ronnie Sandahl peels back the layer behind the myth of footballing stardom at a young age; showing the toll it can take on anyone when a footballing prodigy, Martin – is bought by a top club Inter Milan at just 16. It’s the chance of a lifetime – but the film explores the cost and toll that the sport takes on him and feels like more like a film about mental health than purely a film about football. Not everyone can be a Messi or a Ronaldo; there is only one of them – and it quickly subverts the rags to riches story and lets your dream become a nightmare. Full credit for Inter allowing their image to be used in a film where they don't come out in an especially positive light.

Hive | Blerta Basholi’s Hive feels like a powerful, understated and raw triumph for Kosovo – a film that focuses on the enduring power and preservation of Fahrije, whose husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. Compact and intimate and deserving of every bit of the praise it gets – it explores how families cope with the death of loved ones; unaware of the fate of those who don’t even return home. Answers are not on the cards here - but a rewarding experience you’ll get nonetheless, a towering accomplishment for Yllka Gashi.

Paris, 13th District | A black-and-white commentary on sex, romance and lust in the digital age from Jacques Audiard stars Noémie Merlant, Makita Samba and Lucie Zhang in a film that doesn’t feel judgemental of subjects like online dating – simply letting its characters be who they are. Softness and sex are inheritely linked here – it’s not just a movie about sex but about characters living their lives where some of them – gasp – have sex! – and every performance is given the depth that it needs to shine with the script from Celine Sciamma bringing out the vibrant energy in the performances that are full of life – Lucie Zhang in particular is the scene stealer; but Merlant and Samba are terrific as well. Perhaps jokingly; this is the arthouse version of Emily in Paris, but calling that with any senes of a straight face would be a disservice. It shows how versatile Audiard is as a filmmaker; switching gears from his last entry, the Joaquin Phoenix-starrer western The Sisters Brothers.

Rebel Dread | Don Letts is one of the leading figures in pop history; injecting Afro-Caribbean music into the early punk scene – and this is a documentary of the legendary rebel of British counterculture that explores his relationship with The Clash and The Who; his turn as a DJ – it’s everything that someone interested in the history of British music could’ve wanted, backed by a soundtrack for the ages.

Scream | Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett find a way to breath new life into the Scream franchise – which takes a meta spin on the legacy sequel for an immensely rewatchable take that finds something new to do with the franchise; fully aware of the discourse that films like The Last Jedi have had on the Star Wars fandom. Neve Campbell reminds us as to just how much of an iconic character Sidney Prescott is – and the franchise continues to showcase that it has no bad entries – which at 5 films deep now; is a rare miracle. Jenna Ortega and Melissa Berrera are among the breakouts of a new cast; whilst Courteney Cox and David Arquette get some of their best material yet. What if the real villain was the history of horror cinema?

Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood | The space race is having something of a moment right now with the third series of For All Mankind taking the Cold War to Mars in the '90s after starting out in the '60s, and here is Richard Linklater's take on it - a nostalgic throwback to the first moon landing of the summer of '69. Linklater is no stranger to animation; A Scanner Darkly was a delight, and he's able to fuel this narrative that provides an eye-opening look into what life was like as a child in that era. The nuance of human life and its every day subjects is captured brilliantly - few directors understand ordinary people's lives better, with an incredibly humanist approach that fuses fantasy and realism superbly.

Happening | Cinema as empathy; empathy as cinema. Audrey Diwan's harrowing, harsh but frighteningly real film - made doubly so because of its timing - focuses on the social prejudices surrounding abortion in a supposed liberal 1960s France. It's a breaking of a vision as we watch Anamaria Vartolomei, in a stunning role - there is no better performance this year - fall pregnant and have her friends turn her back on her; finding the prospect of her future fading as the days progress. Nothing here is gratuitous, the same care and respect that afford Never Rarely Sometimes Always is paid here - and its harsh, visceral narrative is a movie that makes it incredibly hard to tear away from. Poignant and reflective - soul-searching and shot with a smart wisdom that makes it essential.

The Black Phone | Joe Hill and Scott Derrickson combine for a smart-paced thriller that doesn't bother with explaining the hows and whys of the supernatural and just gets straight to the point in a superbly tightly paced; imaginative movie that makes the most out of Ethan Hawke and some wonderful child performances. Smart, creative with its twists and cleverly able to place its jump scares - Derrickson proves once again he's one of the best names in mainstream horror right now. It feels reductive to compare this to Stephen King given well; Hill is his son - but the vibes of this are just right.

The Girl and the Spider | People move house; the world moves around them - life goes on. It feels like every year or so there's at least one entry on the yearly Cahiers du Cinéma best of list that you're unsure why it's there; and I'll admit - I went into this one with a degree of scepticism. But I needn't have worried! Brothers Ramon Zürcher & Silvan Zürcher helm this human drama - exploring a dynamic between Lisa who's moving and her world is turning upside down around her - her mother flirts with a handyman, a family next door returns from holiday and the to-do list of construction expands the longer the film progresses; with problems and cracks being found around the household as the building work goes. Geometric in the way that it only uses interactions with a purpose - this film manages to show before us that what's left unsaid is just as important as what is.

The Innocents | From the writer of The Worst Person in the World and 2017's Thelma comes an unsettling slow burn of a horror film that feels like a gradual dosage of unsettling discoveries thrown at you one by one as a group of young children discover that they have hidden abilities. Adults often misunderstand what kids are up to when they're not looking at them - and sometimes - even when they are looking at them - and this film takes that idea and just builds and builds; running with it. Horror isn't original anymore, you say? Look no further than this gem of a movie, which goes to some seriously dark places that you're not quite ready for it to go to. Remarkable performances from a young cast, especially Rakel Lenora Fløttum.