2022 has been an odd year for film, or maybe it’s just me that’s changed. I’ve taken a sort of unplanned sabbatical from film criticism, instead just seeing what I want, when I feel like it. This has led to some great first time watches of old missed films, but it’s also dried up my access to a lot of independent cinema and festivals which normally flood my end of year lists. My full 2022 ranking is incredibly weak, with a slog of films sitting at 4 or 3.5 stars and only one film getting a coveted 5 form me this year (past years have seen multiple contenders). Despite what I would say was a very ‘mid’ film year, to steal a terrible phrase from twitter, I stand by my top 5, a mixture of independent, female led or female focussed films
A surprise hit at Sundance, I was immediately attracted to Fresh based on the pairing of Daisy Edgar Jones and Sebastian Stan, then furious as people insisted of spoiling the twist while us non-attendees waited for the film to arrive on Disney+. I should probably apologise to most of those as when the film did arrive, Disney told all with the marketing from the get go. The delightful twist? It didn’t matter or spoil the film one bit.
A feature length debut from female director Mimi Cave, she switches tone and genre easily, making Fresh equal measures of charming rom-com, hyper-camp parody (looking at you dancing montage) and chilling thriller. She is able to make the chemistry of Stan and Jones ooze off the screen and make the ludicrous plot seem almost real. A fun film that might put you off your dinner for a while, I can’t wait to see what’s next for Cave.
4. The Novice
Another feature length debut, this time from Lauren Hadaway who also wrote the film, The Novice puts the pressures of perfectionism under a microscope. Featuring a powerhouse performance from Isabelle Fuhrman who many will know from The Orphan franchise, it focusses on a college student who sets out to champion the rowing team, despite having no background or experience.
Hadaway has complete control of the screen and doesn’t shy away from the horrors of obsession with Fuhrman willing to bear all and put herself through the wringer of emotions. Powerful editing guide the story and emotions along, building the narrative in to a powerful pressure cooker. For anyone who has ever had an obsession, or even just hated themselves to the point of destruction, this is the other side of the coin to your favourite underdog sports movies.
3. Decision to Leave
Ok, so this might not be female led or female directed, but no-one can deny Park Chan-wook is a master of the screen, and he can direct a woman in love like possibly no other. Released only a few months ago, this instantly shot to my top 5, mostly due to the intense desire shared on screen by our leads Tang Wei and Hae il Park, but also thanks to one of the most haunting final scenes in film this century. Park plays a detective investigating the mysterious death of Wei’s husband but finds himself inexplicably drawn to her, despite almost no shared language. Through Chan-wook’s artful direction, voice memos and phones have never been sexier and lust has never been more heartbreaking. A must watch for anyone who thinks films aren’t sexy anymore.
2. Do Revenge
Did I have some reservations about putting Do Revenge, a silly teen revenge comedy, in my top of the year? Yes. Is it the most fun I’ve had watching a film this year? Did I immediately rewatch it to go back and see all the easter eggs I’d missed? Absolutely. Do Revenge is candy coated nonsense and it made my brain sing with joy. An homage, a parody, a successor to the teen films of the 90s, it has two girls out for revenge against the cool kids who have wronged them, all in lilac school uniforms, berets and capes included, to an awesome soundtrack with nods to Jawbreaker, Cruel Intentions, She’s All That and too many other 90’s flicks to mention. It comes from the mind of Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Unpregnant, Someone Great) and fed in to everything i love and miss from the films of my youth. It’s nonsense and camp, but it knows it and embraces it. Grab a drink and have some fun with this one.
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
Is it really and end of year list if Everything Everywhere All At Once isn’t on the list somewhere? Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, it challenges everything a movie can and should be. Michelle Yeah and Stephanie Hsu give some of the best performances of the year in multiple roles, never losing sight of who they are in the scene, but somehow transcending it all to be one linear story. The costumes are stunning, the editing out of this world but at it’s core, it’s the emotional love story between a mother and daughter that make this film so worthy of its place here. Grab a Raccacoonie and cry other some google eyed rocks.
Ex film teacher and frequent couch potato. I try and see at least one new release a week, but I’ve somehow got to 30 without having seen The Godfather?