By Megan Bianco
What started out as a decent year for new films, including Jeff Tremaine’s Jackass Forever and the Daniels’ Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, ended on a disappointing note with the likes of A.G. Iñárritu’s Bardo and Damien Chazelle’s Babylon.
But, like most of the time, there are still plenty of recent flicks to recommend and watch, from indie dramas to character studies to horror films to crime thrillers. Something I quickly noticed this year was how many solid family films came out in 2022.
This is a genre that has left my radar over the years, but within the past 12 months, I came to fall in love with Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman and Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, both about little girls (Joséphine Sanz and Frankie Corio) coming to terms with their distant parents (Nina Meurisse in Petite Maman and Paul Mescal in Aftersun).
The film community seems to be currently interested in telling dysfunctional family tales through the eyes of the child rather than the grown-up, to a refreshing welcome from viewers. Along with Dean Fleischer-Camp’s charming Marcel the Shell with Shoes On for the animated output, we have some quality choices for adults and older kids who enjoy indies.
For more family stories that aren’t strictly focused on children, Scott McGeHee and David Siegel’s Montana Story and Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans touch on more serious subjects such as affairs, divorce, death and abuse.
The Fabelmans has Spielberg’s usual whimsy and optimism through the retro, 1950s-1960s set drama starring Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, while Montana Story is more straightforward about two siblings (Owen Teague and Haley Lu Richardson) reconnecting after years apart. Both are executed successfully and do the most with modest productions.
Also on the smaller production scale, John Patton Ford’s Emily the Criminal was a pleasant surprise for crime drama fans wanting to see a feature through the eyes of a woman (Aubrey Plaza) who gets involved with underground fraud and scamming.
Another critical hit with a complicated female lead, Todd Field’s Tár, was not only the return of an acclaimed writer-director and Cate Blanchett’s most recent praised performance, it offered a new perspective on celebrities, privilege and “cancel culture.”
If you were looking for some “back to basics,” yet solid horror this year, there are Ti West’s X—an homage to both 1970s slashers and porno origins—and Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey, a prequel to the popular Predator franchise.
Mia Goth and Amber Midthunder lead the smaller-scale spooky period pieces impressively, with both films rejuvenating their genre and series, in Prey’s case.
And to conclude my top 10 of 2022, Graham Moore’s crime drama The Outfit was a good example of how to shoot a “play on screen,” with only two or three rooms and about five actors. Mark Rylance and Johnny Flynn deliver per usual, while Dylan O’Brien and Zoey Deutch debut their effective chemistry.
I’m not sure if 2022 will go down as a stellar year in cinema history, but it’s one that left me thinking, “Eh, not bad.”