10 Notable Feature Films of 2022

Il Buco. Trust Michaelangelo Frammartino to come up with something that’s completely unforgettable yet  like nothing you’ve ever seen before. He did that in 2010 with Le Quattro Volte, and he’s done it again with Il Buco, a dialogue-free period piece that combines the story of a cave exploration team with that of an aging shepherd and a meditative essay on time and timelessness in Calabria.

Decision to Leave. This twisted romantic thriller from Park Chan-wook features a knockout performance by Tang Wei as a Chinese immigrant to Korea and Park Hae-il as the police detective who’s assigned to investigate the death of her husband. Cinematography by Kim Ji-Yong and music by Jo Yeong-wook perfectly complement the screenplay by Park and Chung Seo-kyung.

EO.  Jerzy Skolomowski’s EO takes the viewer on a road trip through the back ends of Europe, as seen from the point of view of a donkey, in this loose remake of Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar with a little of Federico Fellini’s La Strada mixed in. It’s a visually arresting film (shot by Michal Dymek) with an exuberantly theatrical soundtrack by Pawel Mykietyn, and replaces Bresson’s religious preoccupations with a focus on contrast between the natural and man-made world.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Writer/director Rian Johnson outdoes himself in his second Benoit Blanc mystery, this one centered around a billionaire that might just remind you of E**n M**k. It’s a romp reminiscent of the splashy, all-star Agatha Christie adaptations of yore, like Death on the Nile (1978), and if Johnson steals shamelessly from the Queen of Crime, at least he’s stealing from the best.

Happening

Happening. There’s not a frame out of place in director Audrey Diwan’s Happening, which perfectly captures the style of Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux’s novel L’evenement. This film is set in France in 1963, where Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a top-ranked university student, finds herself pregnant and has only bad options to choose from—a story that’s also playing out in numerous parts of the United States in 2022.

Saint Omer. University professor Rama (Kayije Kagame) plans to use the trial of Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda), an immigrant mother accused of killing her own child through neglect, as the basis for a literary retelling of the myth of Medea. Things work out quite differently in Alice Diop’s Saint Omer, however, which is based on a real trial that took place in France in 2016.

Danielle Deadwyler and Whoopi Goldberg in Till

Till. Mamie Till (Danielle Deadwyler) is the central character in Chinonye Chukwu’s Till, and rightfully so, because without her insistence that her son Emmett’s battered body be displayed to the world through an open-casket funeral, his death might have been lost among those of the hundreds of other African Americans lynched in the American South. Without downplaying the violence of the social system in which this story takes place, Chukwu also takes care to celebrate the love within the extended Till family and the beauty of the Southern landscape.

Women Talking.  Sarah Polley’s take on Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel, itself based on a horrifying real-life story involving horse tranquilizer and an astonishing number of rapes in a Bolivian Mennonite community, is an ensemble film of the purest sort. Faced with three options—do nothing, stay and fight, or leave—the women discuss their choices and make their decision collectively, as they have always lived.

The Quiet Girl. Colm Bairád’s beautifully quiet film, adapted from Claire Keegan’s novella Foster, tells a simple story about a neglected child (Catherine Clinch) who comes into her own while spending  the summer with her cousins on their farm in County Meath. The land is beautiful, and the cousins are kind, but there’s a sense of menace as well, in the form of a secret which is abruptly and cruelly revealed by a classically nosy neighbor.   

The Woman King. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film offers all the pleasures of an old-school epic but with a fresh take—the heroes in this film are Black women, led by Viola Davis in an inspiring performance as the military leader Nanisca. Dana Stevens’ screenplay is fictional, but the Agojie were a real, all-female fighting force in the Kingdom of Dahoney, and anyone who has a problem with Steven’s choices about what to include, what to exclude, and what to alter for dramatic purposes needs to ask themselves if they were as bothered by the departures from historical fact when watching, say, Braveheart. | Sarah Boslaugh

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