Top movies of 2022

17 Dec

This year saw much more exciting offerings on TV; among my top 5 picks are two movies that I saw at the beginning of the year. This list includes a documentary, a French film, a movie available on Hulu that I was only able to watch during one weekend when I was able to access the channel, and two movies that I saw at the beginning of the year that have stayed with me since. Want a guide to standout movies from the past twelve years? Check out my picks from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

The Lost Daughter: Olivia Colman plays a woman, Leda, with a mysterious past who goes on vacation in Greece; through flashbacks we learn why she is reacting so strongly to another family vacationing on the island. Director Maggie Gyllenhaal expertly shows how the protagonist’s past has made her the paranoid, neurotic woman she is today, as she is given constant reminders of the choices she made as a young mother. Throughout, we see something we rarely see on the big screen- a portrayal of ambivalent motherhood. Leda, the main character, is complicated, and it is hard to think of anyone else playing her than Olivia Colman, who makes her sympathetic, even as her actions become stranger and harder to defend. The whole is mesmerizing.

The Worst Person in the World: I have a soft spot for coming of age movies about young women making their way in the big city. And this one is so gorgeously done, a love letter to a city, Oslo, I hadn’t thought much about before. But in the hands of Joachim Trier, the city becomes the backdrop for a young woman, Julie’s, coming of age, as we see her discover herself and her interests as she navigates her way through two significant relationships. The scene where she crashes a wedding and meets one of her great loves, and they explore ways to get to know one another without cheating on their significant others, is a joy to watch. The movie shows the highs of new love and the lows of loss. We witness Julie mature, and the journey is a wonder to behold.

Navalny: It’s rare that a documentary is as exciting as a thriller. I’m not even a documentary person per se, but when I saw this in a special showing at the San Francisco Film Festival, I was hooked. Alexei Navalny, the Russian dissident whose very real struggle against his government is the heart of the film, addressed the screen in English at numerous points. This immediacy, interspersed with footage from his home life in Germany before returning to Russia, and the remarkable phone call to his would-be assassin make this an exciting and urgent viewing experience.

Petite Maman: If you know some basic French, you know what the title of Celine Sciamma’s movie means, and like me, you might be able to figure out what this movie is about before you see it. A simple, sweet story told in a lovely way, it’s economical- not wasting time explaining how the two little girls at the center of the movie meet, but just accepting the fact of their meeting and what it means for both of them. It’s a gem of a movie.

Good luck to you, Leo Grande: Any opportunity to see Emma Thompson in a movie is worth seeking out, and this film is no exception. She plays a woman who has reached retirement age, and widowhood, with little knowledge of sex and her body, and wants to explore. The differences between older generations, for whom sex is sinful and not spoken of, and younger generations, who see it as a fact of life and something to be enjoyed and celebrated without shame, all form the crux of this film. As a vehicle for Emma Thompson to play an older woman, the likes of whom we rarely see on film, this movie works. (Just forget the regrettable title. Sometimes bad titles happen to good movies).

Honorable mention, Babylon: I just saw this at an early screening last week, and I’m still thinking about it. Is it one of the best of the year? I’m not sure. But I loved the insane opening party scene, gorgeous period costumes, the bonkers, swing-for-the-fences ending, and the performance by Mexican actor Diego Calva, whose charisma could power a small town. He carries every scene of this movie. It’s worth your time.


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