My Top Ten Films of 2022: #10-#6

Another year ends, another year begins – and as is routine, that means it’s time for my annual Top Ten Films list! Just like other years, I’ll be going through my favourite ten films of the last year, split across two articles.

Before we get into my choices, here’s a quick clarification of how my list works! I take into account both my analytical view on the film as well as my own tastes, to make a list that is personal to me. To qualify for selection, a film must have a 2022 release date in the UK – so, for example, a film such as Belfast would count. To see my lists from the previous five years, there’ll be the relevant links at the bottom of this post.

Genuinely, there were so many brilliant films this year, and that made putting together this list very tough. Some excellent films that just missed out on making my Top Ten include the Viola Davis-led epic The Woman King, Australian slow-burn true-story crime thriller The Stranger, and the engrossing noir-styled The Batman from Matt Reeves. Horror was also a particularly strong genre this year – I particularly liked Barbarian and how it played with audience expectations. Plus, X excelled at telling a gorgeously down-and-dirty slasher story, and Nope was yet another intelligent horror from Jordan Peele.

Right then, with all those precursors done, let’s get into the list, shall we? Here’s the first half of my Top Ten Films for 2022!

#10 – She Said

It’s essentially tradition for me to have at least one investigative-journalism film in these lists, and 2022 didn’t fail to deliver in that department. She Said is the dramatic retelling of the Pulitzer Prize-Winning investigation by The New York Times into Harvey Weinstein and the history of sexual abuse and wrongdoing in Hollywood; specifically, the film focuses around the reporters who break the story, Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan). The film shows both the way the investigation is initiated and of course the investigation itself – the plot firmly follows the sort of structure that Spotlight, The Post, and Dark Waters employed so well. Amongst all the story developments, the main strength of She Said is in the human stories it centres around. We get a lot of quieter moments where we see how the lives of real people have been damaged and otherwise affected, and they’re handled with great care.

Adding extra validity is Ashley Judd playing herself as one of the real-life survivors involved in the Weinstein trial. Meanwhile, Mulligan and Kazan are sublime in the main roles, showing the determination and frustration caused by every obstacle they have to tear down to get to the truth. In terms of bringing this important investigation to a wide audience, She Said is superb, and I encourage everyone to see it. The main reason it’s at the lower end of my Top Ten is the similarity in tone and pacing to other aforementioned journalistic films, which costs it a little bit of impact from a purely storytelling point of view.

#9 – All Quiet on the Western Front

In 2022, we got a new film version of All Quiet on the Western Front, based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque and following in the footsteps of previous film adaptations in 1930 and 1979 (the latter being made for TV). The film focuses on a group of young German soldiers called to the front line during the later years of the First World War, showing both their initial enthusiasm to join the cause, and then the crushing horror of the reality of war. Our through-line is Paul (Felix Kammerer), who we see go to the trenches and lose many of his close friends, forcing him to quickly change his perspective and attitude towards the war. The battle scenes in the film are some of the most authentically horrific I’ve seen in war film, whether it’s close-combat trench warfare or the terrifying emergence of tanks and flamethrowers in No Man’s Land.

German director Edward Berger balances this well with character moments, and there’re often telling cuts from the trenches to the luxurious rooms in which the armistice is being agreed. The war scenes never become gratuitous, and are punctuated by moments that remind you how the soldiers on each side aren’t really that different, including a powerful bunker scene that says so much with barely any dialogue at all. All Quiet on the Western Front is one of the best war films of the past few years, and demands your attention from start to finish.

#8 – Cyrano

Cyrano feels like a film built to draw me in. A grandiose romance, magical music by Aaron and Bryce Dessner (of The National!), and sweeping, richly-coloured cinematography – yep, those are all big positives for me! The film is an adaptation of the 2018 stage play, a musical inspired by Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play about the real-life Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac. The story itself is more of a fictional story than a real account – the premise is that well-respected French writer and duellist Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) has the bravery to take on any man or challenge, apart from confessing his love for long-time close friend Roxanne (Haley Bennett). After heart-wrenching early scenes that show this dynamic, we’re introduced to Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who starts a fledgling relationship with Roxanne – but he lacks the ability to express his feelings in the deep fashion that Roxanne craves, and Cyrano agrees to help by writing letters from Christian to Roxanne.

As you’d expect, this leads to plenty of bittersweet moments where Cyrano is instrumental in Roxanne’s romance without being part of it, and Dinklage is painfully brilliant at showing the angst of this with his mannerisms. The backdrop to all this is a 1600s France at war, which adds wider stakes to the gripping character dynamics – and the war also applies a cold contrast to the beautifully orange lighting that permeates most of the film. Of course, Cyrano is a musical, and I adore the soundtrack – the songs feel individual and uniquely relevant to their scenes, whether they be an exciting swordfight (“When I Was Born”), a longing, loving montage (“Someone to Say”), or an affecting wartime ensemble (“Wherever I Fall – Pt. 1”). Whenever I stop to contemplate Cyrano, I think about the musical numbers, and fall in love with the film all over again.

#7 – Happening

It was especially poignant that Happening (incidentally) released in the UK close to the time America overturned Roe v. Wade, a decision that removed the protection for women having the right to abortion. You see, Happening is based on an autobiographical novel by Annie Ernaux; set in 1960s France, the story is about Anne Duchesne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a literature student who accidentally becomes pregnant in a time when abortion is illegal. From here, we see this clearly intelligent woman with bright prospects struggle to find a way out of her situation amongst a society built against her.

This slowly takes its toll on Anne, wearing her down as the world closes around her – and Vartolomei’s performance shows this gradual change with tremendous nuance, making the film utterly absorbing despite the downbeat subject matter. Happening doesn’t shy away from showing detail as Anne seeks out some particularly wince-inducing solutions, balanced by tactful angles and a soft, grainy aesthetic (for more detail, you can see my Film in 500 review). I like a film that challenges me and opens my eyes to a new subject, and Happening definitely does just that, combined with a distinctly human nature to the story. We often flippantly throw around the term “essential cinema”, but when it comes to Happening, it rings very true.

#6 – The Souvenir: Part II

After the masterfully-crafted The Souvenir (released in 2019), the idea of a follow-up was an enticing prospect, and in my opinion Part II improves on the original. It feels rare to get a direct follow-up to a smaller-budget film outside of the horror genre, and that makes the way Part II unfolds even more intriguing. Part II doesn’t feel the need to completely change the formula; instead, it just delves further into Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) and her life, unfolding the aftermath of her complex relationship with Anthony (William Burke) in the first film.

Julie is now in the middle of making her student film, and that adds a little more urgency to the plot than was present in the first film – especially when combined with other characters such as her mother Rosalind (Tilda Swinton) and fellow filmmaker Patrick (Richard Ayoade) imparting their own strong opinions onto her. The Souvenir films feel so tangible and real within their 1980s setting, moving neither slow nor fast, and enriched by the beautiful warmth of the cinematography. Capping it all off is an ingenious ending that caps off the duo of films with almost ephemeral style. You can easily take the two Souvenir films as one long narrative, but Part II also works by itself as a compelling showcase of how love, life, and creativity always continues on.

Thanks for reading! Part 2 of this list, with my picks for #5-#1, will be coming very soon! If you’d like to see my previous lists, you can find the links below:

2021: #10-#6 / #5-#1
2020: #10-#6 / #5-#1
2019: #10-#6 / #5-#1
2018: #10-#6 / #5-#1
2017: #10-#6 / #5-#1

Thanks for reading, and have an amazing day!

3 thoughts on “My Top Ten Films of 2022: #10-#6

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