As it is with any year, it’s been a good year for film, As it is with any year, taking the time to seek out worthwhile titles will merit possible gems and worthwhile projects and personal favorites. There remains a wealth of new titles and plenty of ways to see them, especially as the year comes to a close.
My lists are of course simply my, and therefore one persons perspective on the most memorable and special watches of this year. This belongs of course to a much larger discussion filled with many different opinions and experiences and perspectives. As I’ve been reflecting on 2022, I found myself wanting to champion titles that left their mark and managed to make me feel something. As is typical, I lean heavily into theme and cherish good stories. So with that in mind, I figured I would start with a choice of 10 outliers, hidden gems from 2022 that I very much enjoyed but which didn’t make my top 20. These do not include horror, animated or documentary genres as I have dedicated separate pages to them in this same space.
The Hidden Gems
Lotawana (Directed By Trevor Hawkins)
The films stripped back nature might betray the strength of its thematic and structural presence. The way the Director draws out the underlying tension of this relationship between two indivduals looking to escape from the pressures of the world, and ultimately finding motivation to do so in eachother, using specific visual and design techniques is really impressive. These tensions have a way of invading the hopeful ideals they are trying to find, or perhaps establish, out on a remote Missouri lake. This brings unexpected revelations, unwanted news, disagreements and uncertainty, family tensions. Their intentions are good and even admirable, but it is a responsibilty to life itself and the worlds they occupy both separately and togetger that prove vital to their need to work things out in a way that fits both the idealism and the stark nature of their reality. If the film has its way it would convince us that such a tension is possible to hold in the beauty of the moment and the intimate details such as facial expressions, sunsets, shimmering water, a smile, or even the silence.
Really impressed with this one. One of the better films from the early 2022 slate, and I even think it’s a debut. Which makes it more impressive.
All My Puny Sorrows (Directed By Michael McGowan)
One of my favorite Canadian films of 2022. It’s a tough watch, but a rewarding one. It follows two estranged sisters as they reconnect following an attempted suicide and navigate the aftermath of this reality. It’s a bit raw and rough around the edges, intentionally so, especially when it comes to the editing. But that plays a role in its definite emotional punch.
Murina (Directed By Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic)
Technically a holdover from 2021, but it didn’t get a wide release until this year.
The kind of coming of age drama you don’t encounter very often with a concluding third act which will leave you thinking about it long after. Not simply in a thought provoking way, but in a “did they just do that” kind of way.
And what’s interesting is that for as crazy as the film’s finish feels it also feels entirely realistic and natural. This is a film that is bathed in its setting, making the eel spear and the one piece bathing suit that comes to define the film’s aesthetic a character in and of itself. A character uniquely suited to capturing the Adriatic, Croatian backdrop. This is a film for the senses. I guarantee you will never look at family dynamics in the same way again.
Moon, 66 Questions (Directed By Jacqueline Lentzou)
A poignant picture of a dysfunctional familial relationship which digs underneath the facade of our emotional distance and past the trauma to unearth some important observations about living and functioning in the present moment, especially where reality forces us to reconcile life’s important tensions. Here we follow an estranged daughter who travels back home to attend to her ailing father. Through this we are made aware of the unspoken baggage, even if we don’t know entirely what it is. This forms the central arc of the quietly expressed journey, told through the observation of external movement and the internal processes that guide them.
The Phantom of The Open (Directed By Craig Roberts)
Just might be one of the most heartwarming films you see all year.
A pure delight with Rylance capturing the real world personality with his usual understated charm and commitment
Man of God (Directed By Helena Popovic)
This one surprised me, not just with its unconventional approach but also with its intimate portrait of an orthodox Saint. And to be honest, it’s intimate portrait of Eastern Orthodoxy. It follows the story of a single, Orthodox Priest who, after being falsely accused of a scandal, goes on to make an appeal for necessary reform, for a return to aestheticism.
As a very low budget and indie affair I imagine this will struggle to find an audience. But I was quite taken with the journey of this Priest as he attempts to stay faithful in the midst of adversity while striving to bring about change, especially when it comes to the commentary it provides on power, power systems and the relevance of a Christlike and cruciform life.
Jockey (Directed By Clint Bentley)
Features a career performance from Clifton Collins Jr,, who plays an aging Jockey wrestling with questions of mortality and legacy. The film also boasts some amazing cinematography which shines through some exquisitely drawn long takes. This is about a relationship between a human and his horse, bor more so it is about life’s relationship to living in the shadows of those most important questions. It’s a beautiful film and deserves more eyeballs.
Marvelous and the Black Hole (Directed By Kate Tsang)
Quirky, different, and refreshingly accessible given its creative edges, this coming of age family drama manages to speak to a younger audience while also displaying it’s maturity. Be.aware that it has some mature elements (including language), but don’t let that detract from this being a film you watch with your kids. I think the message is important and the way it sheds light on real life struggles is honest and unfiltered.
The young woman occupying the heart of the story finds herself struggling with the death of their mother and not knowing how to grieve. And so she takes it out on her family and friends by rebelling, neglecting school and picking up destructive behaviors. That’s when she meets this marvelous older woman who is into performing magic. The two strike up a relationship that threatens to challenge both of their perspectives as they now are figuring stuff out together.
The magic motif is a nice touch, blending in with with the dreamlike sequences to form a corelary narrative. But it’s the grounded stuff that retains the film’s true emotional weight.
Shout out to Don Shanahan at https://everymoviehasalesson.com/ for turning me on to this film by way of recommendation
The Drovers Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson (Directed By Leah Purcell)
Every year there seems to be a small, quiet western that manages to sneak in under the radar and prove the genre is still going strong. This is 2022’s entry, and it’s a strong one.
A really strong performance from someone I’ve never heard of tops of the list of accolades here, which include an excellent use of mystery and suspense that keeps adding layers to our protagonist as the film goes on, a gripping tone, some honest emotional moments that hit to the core, and a messy, raw undertone that serves its dark and moody atmosphere. It’s an Australian western and thus the backdrop affords it a haunting and beautiful backdrop as well.
It’s also ripe with the necessary family drama befitting the homestead focus, leaning into the lawless nature that such a survivalist tale demands.
To Leslie (Directed By Michael Morris)
The rise and fall of this films central character in a memorable and perhaps career defining role for Andrea Riseborough happens early and happens quickly. It’s a plot device which uses a sudden lottery win to mark the middle aged mother’s journey through the inevitable bookends. Who she was before she wins and who she is after losing the winnings is meant to parallel a person enslaved to addiction and given to relapse. The early sequence that shows her going from untold riches to forgotten and invisible single mother estranged from her son and relegated to the streets becomes a window into her past relationship with her son. So when she decides to track down her son we are immediately able to locate the unspoken patterns that continue to govern her life while also being able to empathize with struggles to trust and forgive.
This is a character drama through and through with some lovely moments of vulnerability and a strong emotional core. These are complex characters who don’t fit easy categories, and thus it becomes easy to get invested. Strong direction keeps the focus on the journey, not so much in a progressive or linear sense, although there is a natural progression and potential growth, but on the revelations themsleves. Which makes this a rewarding and worthwhile viewing