As always, it is based solely on UK cinema release dates – this has to have been in 2022, so does not feature a lot the current awards contenders that professional critics get to see way before normal people.
20. Crimes of the Future
David Cronenberg returns with a film that happily references his previous work, but very much creates its own unique and disturbing world. The set design and world building of Crimes of the Future does inevitably create more questions than answers about the wider world and some of the film’s subplots, but the moody set design and great performances do create an intriguing and intoxicating cinematic world that lingers in the memory for a very long time.
19. The Banshees of Inisherin
Martine McDonagh has always demonstrated a skilful ability to write films that effortlessly go from comedy to tragedy in the blink of any eye, and this painfully funny examination of male friendship manages that with great success.
Though the narrative may go a bit far sometimes to the point of being slightly unbelievable, the wonderful performances from all involved make sure to produce a film that is equally hilarious and tearjerkingly moving.
Animated films are not just reserved for kids, as they can sometimes be a way of telling very adult stories in a unique way, and this deeply emotional story of an Afghanistan immigrant now living in Denmark finally revealing a secret that has haunted him all of his life is a perfect example of that. It is a story that incorporates so many relevant and emotive themes and being told through animation only serves to deeply enhance those themes, creating a deeply emotional and unforgettable film.
17. The Good Boss
Javier Bardem is at his most wonderfully sleazy in this gloriously dark comedy as the ruthless boss of a company who will do anything to win an award to achieve national recognition for himself.
The Good Boss is dark comedy at its best, often because it features certain moments and situations that we can all relate to from our own experiences (albeit the film may exaggerate them slightly for comic or dramatic effect) and it features many darkly hilarious moments of those at the top often will happily tread all over those to get what they need.
16. Everything Went Fine
The evergreen director François Ozon has proved himself to be an assured hand with any type of film and like with his 2018 film By The Grace of God, with Everything Went Fine he once again brings us a film about a deeply emotive subject, but yet skilfully presents it a matter of fact way that is cold and clinical, but appropriate for the film.
This time the subject is assisted suicide, and it is a subject that can easily open a massive can of worms when it comes to moral debate of this deeply emotive subject, so Ozon skilfully avoids this by just presenting the film in a way that adeptly avoids taking any sides, and it emerges all the more moving for it. The result is a very relatable story that presents facts, and lets the audience form their own opinions and have their own debates. The result is a deeply moving and unforgettable film.
15. The Worst Person in the World
This contemporary love story about a woman struggling to navigate both a successful love life and career may not seem to be particularly original or different on the surface, but yet the film itself is a deeply raw and honest depiction of the often-unforgiving nature of relationships in the 21st century.
There will be something or at least one individual moment within the narrative of The Worst Person in the World that we can all relate to, and for that reason we cannot help but be engaged by the deeply flawed characters and wish them happiness, even if life tends to take happiness away more than it gives it.
Gaspar Noe is well known for making difficult and challenging films, but Vortex is both of those things for very different reasons compared to his other films and is all the more rewarding for it.
This story of an elderly couple played by Dario Argento and Françoise Lebrun told in split screen with a camera focussing on each is an intentionally challenging but produces an often deeply moving film that explores some very relatable and emotive subjects, and certainly lingers long in the memory. Thanks to the raw performances and dialogue, all involved make sure that the split screen is far more than just a visual gimmick, and it may be one of the more challenging films to watch of 2022 but is also one of the most unforgettable.
13. Decision to Leave
Park Chan-wook’s thriller about a cop investigating the seeming suicide of a mountain climber that leads to him forming a dangerously close relationship to the late climber’s wife is perfect for the director’s visual style.
Filled with labyrinthine twists and turns as the protagonist embarks on a deeply psychology journey, the slick editing and camerawork only enhances what is a deeply engaging protagonist’s journey shared by the audience – with the occasional intentional splash of dark humour. Comparisons to Hitchcock are inevitable, but Chan-wook is a very assured director that knows how to handle such a narrative filled with the themes associated with such a genre piece, and Decision to Leave grips tightly from the very start until its unforgettable ending.
12. Official Competition
The vanity and self-obsession of those in the film industry is very easy to mock, but every so often a film comes along that just manages to do a superb job of it, and this dark comedy is just that. Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martínez play the two chalk and cheese actors selected to star in the film directed by Penelope Cruz’s Lola Cuevas – hired by a vein businessman who wants to be remembered for financing a ‘great film’.
All involved are in tremendous, over the top form to create a riotously funny film that successfully manages to be both farcical and occasionally quite dark in its humour, up until its unforgettable conclusion.
11. The Stranger
An extremely moody and brooding Australian film about an undercover detective trying to get a confession out of a suspected child murderer is a deeply uncompromising, atmospheric and unsettling film. Both Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris are on top form in a psychological thriller that is an intentionally difficult watch, but for those willing to go with its unique narrative approach will be infinitely rewarded with a film that grips extremely tightly from start to finish.
10. All My Friends Hate Me
This story of a man meeting up with his former university friends is cinematic awkwardness at it best and most horrible. There are so many moments within the narrative where we can genuinely relate to what the protagonist experiences, and this often produces genuine laughter, but also extreme feelings of horror and discomfort. As the main protagonist examines his own life, we cannot help but also do the same, and as he goes through his narrative journey that is at times hilarious, but also goes to some extremely dark and lonely places.
All My Friends Hate Me is a film that is quite a unique phenomenon; never before has a film been so brutally and uncomfortably relatable, but also darkly hilarious. It is certainly not a film for the faint hearted, but for those that manage to get through it, it is genuinely unforgettable.
9. Strawberry Mansion
A film the seems to have been seen by very few, but for those that did manage to see it, this wonderfully surreal story about a dystopian future where what people dream about is monitored and taxed is a real underrated gem of a film.
Despite its low budget, Strawberry Mansion manages to perfectly capture the kind of cinematic worlds created by Terry Gilliam or Michel Gondry, and successfully merges the surreal with a central narrative that contains a deep and profound sense of melancholy that makes the protagonist deeply relatable. An unforgettable and deeply rewarding experience.
8. Parallel Mothers
Pedro Almodóvar has been on top form in the last few years, and Parallel Mothers continues that rich vein of form, with a story that effortlessly combines Spanish political history with an engaging story set in contemporary times. The story set in contemporary times of two mothers of new-borns, but of very different ages that form a deep friendship takes many unexpected and occasionally dark turns, but thanks to the great performances and Almodóvar’s great direction (complete with his usual penchant for dominant primary colours) it is never anything less than a deeply engaging story that offers many emotional rewards.
7. Top Gun: Maverick
Despite whatever flaws it may have, there is no doubting that 1986’s Top Gun is a great film, but also very much a film of its time, and there was never any real significant demand for a sequel. There was the inevitable feelings of surprise and dread when a sequel was confirmed, and perhaps the continued delays to its release because of Covid may not have helped.
However, all of these fears were quite literally blown away, as its sequel is pure cinematic pleasure at its most escapist and enjoyable. All involved seem to know what they are making, and there is no avoiding the fact it is cheesy and clichéd to the point that every character decision and line of dialogue can be predicted, and of course everything is about how great its leading man is. Yet, despite all of this, it just works. It just does.
What certainly helps is Cruise’s obvious enthusiasm, the emphasis on physical stunts and putting the main characters through physical tests. Films can serve many functions, and I love a deeply disturbing, dark film more than most, but one of the main reasons films exists is to provide pure escapism – and not for a long time has a film achieved that at quite the extreme level of Top Gun: Maverick. There are no agendas here or patronising messages, this film exists solely to entertain, and it achieves that with great aplomb.
6. The Batman
“Oh, not another bloody Batman film” were probably the thoughts of many when yet another cinematic incarnation of the caped crusader was announced. Thankfully, Matt Reeves’ version instantly became an essential addition, with a genuinely atmospheric film with a different take on its titular protagonist that is the darkest yet. Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne truly is an introvert and a socially awkward outsider (let’s face it, Christian Bale’s take was just Patrick Bateman), and its long running time provides a great character study, but also a deeply engaging detective story steeped in all of the usual film noir tropes that never feel too overused that takes us deep into a nasty criminal-led Gotham that surpasses that of previous Batman films.
This remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru about a civil servant that has so far lived an unfulfilling life who after being given months to live decides to finally make a difference could have so easily been a film drowned in disgustingly saccharine cliché. Thankfully, due to its wonderfully understated tone and an equally understated performance from Bill Nighy, it emerges as a deeply moving and classy film about what it truly means to make a difference and live a rewarding a life – and the concept of ‘making a difference’ does not necessarily involve changing the whole world, but can just as easily be on a much smaller scale.
4. The Quiet Girl
It truly is impossible to describe in words just how genuinely moving Colm Bairéad’s adaption of Claire Keegan’s book is, but I will try.
It might as well be called The Quiet Film (and I mean that as a compliment), as it successfully manages to explore such deeply emotive themes as grief and loneliness, as well as feeling genuinely loved and part of a family unit, but does so in such an intentionally subtle and understated way that when the film gets to its final sequence that simply involves a hug between two characters, the emotion it produces is completely overwhelming.
For so many children, school is a horrible and harrowing experience, and Laura Wandel’s stunning feature length debut about the playground experiences of seven-year-old Nora and her older brother Abel captures that perfectly. Shot throughout with claustrophobic close ups focussed on the faces of just the two main characters, it captures perfectly the brutal and unforgiving world of the school playground and why for so many children it can be such a horrible experience that haunts them forever.
Humans can be extremely horrible, and unfortunately children when not supervised by adults can be just as horrible, and Playground depicts this with harrowing perfection. It is often deeply uncomfortable viewing, but it grips tightly from start it finish, and is film at its most raw and uncompromising that uses the unique element of film as a visual medium to devastating and unforgettable effect.
2. The Innocents
Eskil Vogt’s film about a handful of children left at an apartment complex while most of the families have left for their summer holidays who develop superpowers is cinema at its most deeply disturbing.
While it may be a story and concept that has been done many times before, the fact the film is put together in that classic Scandinavian understated way is what makes it so masterful and deeply engrossing, but also extremely unnerving and genuinely disturbing.
Not a single scene or shot is wasted in a film that first explores what seems to be childhood innocence and naivety as the characters first explore their newly discovered superpowers, but as the narrative develops, so does human nature (which is prevalent no matter what the age of a character) and what develops is one of the most disturbing and unnerving films in recent history.
One of the characters is mentally disabled, but this is handled in a very respectful way that only serves to make the overall story and what happens to its characters even more moving, all leading to what has to be one of the most unforgettable finales to a film in recent memory – and one that stays very long in the memory. The Innocents is a perfect example of what the visual medium of cinema can do to make a story like this get beneath the skin of the viewer and therefore engage, but also deeply disturb, in equal measure.
Sophie Wells’ deeply personal story of a woman called Sophie looking back at her holiday with her dad when she was 11 years old has to be one of the most emotionally devastating films of recent years. It is made in such an assured and confident way that once it takes hold of the viewer, it grips tightly and refuses to let go.
What makes Aftersun such a masterpiece is how subtlety it examines its raw and emotive themes; from very early on it is very obvious that her father (played brilliantly by Paul Mescal) has his own personal demons. The film never focusses on this too much, but from every shot we see of her father, we know there is something beneath the surface. Indeed, this is very much a film about what is just beneath the surface, or just outside the main point of focus – as is often the case with those who suffer from mental health issues.
Aftersun is a film about memory and reconciliation; Sophie is trying to understand her father, and we the audience go on that journey with her, and this is all summed up by one of the film’s final shots when they part ways at the airport after they return home from their holiday. In a wonderful tracking shot filled with visual metaphors, it shows a filmmaker with assured confidence, but also provides the most emotionally devastating and unforgettable films of recent years that will remain in the memory for a very long time.