Top 15 Films of 2022 – Allen’s Picks
How well do we know our loved ones? Do we see them for who they really are? Do they see us as well? Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun (2022) is an unforgettable film about a person trying to reconcile the bonds of their family. Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio play a father and daughter who whisk away on vacation to an oceanside resort. However, things are not how they initially seem. Weaving flashbacks, home video recordings, and dreamlike sequences, Wells builds a collage of memories between these two characters. Each moment is a piece to a bigger puzzle, revealing a story of joy, heartbreak, and sadness. How a person presents themselves to the world could be the opposite of how they are behind closed doors. Wells does not explicitly say what is happening. Instead, she allows us to fill in the blanks, to put ourselves next to these people and walk by them for a short amount of time. I was moved by the film, in the love and compassion of its characters, and in this one brief period where all they needed in the world was each other.
Writer/director Martin McDonagh has returned with his best work since In Bruges (2008). The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is a pitch-black comedy-drama about friendship, loneliness, aging, and the eternal question over “What it all means.” He takes a bizarre premise – the falling out of two lifelong friends – and creates a story about legacy and kindness. Is it worth being remembered if it means being unkind to those who care about you? The film features some of the best dialogue of the year. When lines aren’t flat out funny, they hit with a macabre poetry. Characters speak plainly, sometimes abrasively, but the conversations have so much rhythm and style that we cling to every word. All members of the cast are in top form, including Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, and especially Colin Farrell (who caps an incredible and diverse year of work). The cast and crew pull off an extraordinary feat – as things get more desperate, the more interesting the story becomes. It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions trapped inside an existential crisis.
No other film in 2022 is as bombastic, creative, or unapologetic as Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022). It is such an inventive and high-octane experience that trying to describe it in a few words is near impossible. In their approach, “The Daniels” don’t abide by any set of cinematic rules. In fact, it feels like they are making the rules up as they go along – completely willing to go as ridiculous or as sincere as humanely possible. But in the middle of it all is a beating heart, a story of kindness and understanding that is so perfectly realized that it leaves us in tears.
None of that could have worked without a cast willing to dive into the material with full conviction. Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, and many others headline this story of multiverses, supervillains, hot dog fingers, and the fate of all reality. And yet, every choice felt right – every action and line of dialogue stayed true to the characters. Yes, they are in a fantastical world where just about anything can happen, but their motivations and desires grounded them as flesh and blood humans. Despite going in some weird places (an understatement), the narrative never loses its way in terms of theme or messaging.
The beauty of the film is in its acceptance of people from all walks of life. It reaches out to the weirdos and outcasts – to those that live on the fringes or feel like they don’t have a place they belong. It tells them that they have value, that they do have a place to call their own, and that their existence can make the world a better place. These are big, sweeping ideas, but given the title should we expect anything less? It is that boldness and highwire spirit that makes Everything Everywhere All at Once the best film of the year.