2022 Young Critic Awards
Top 10 Films of 2022
It has been a complicated year for films, with the shuffling of the release schedule due to COVID-19 still taking a toll. As such we had a build-up in the first half of the year with exciting releases such as Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (2022) and The Northman (2022) only for the film schedule to drop off completely in the fall. This allowed for some horror gems to break through, such as Barbarian (2022) and Smile (2022), but it left the film market starving for content. Streamers’ ascent has been halted as well, due to the fall in technology stocks and the financial troubles at Netflix and HBO Max. This shakeup, along with a depressed economic outlook for the global economy, brings uncertainty in 2023. For now, however, we can appreciate the ten films that most delighted yours truly this year. I have not been able to see every release this year, not even some of the awards buzzy films such as Till (2022) and Aftersun (2022), which I had been highly anticipating, but their availability in my location was restricted to mid-January. As such, here are my picks for the best films of 2022:
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Banshees of Inisherin
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Here are the final Top 10:
10. The Northman
This adaptation of the original “Hamlet” story by Robert Eggers permits the American director to continue play around with his visually unique style, this time with Norse mythology as a backdrop. The true attention to detail and visual immersion into this Viking world make The Northman one of the most unique watches of the year.
9. She Said
This investigative journalism film will recall many viewers to the competently made genre siblings Spotlight (2015) and All the Presidents Men (1976). However, director Maria Schrader goes above tributing the journalistic profession and brings about a quiet dimension of emotional depth that helps put into perspective the magnanimous achievement and stakes that the central reporters underwent. To achieve such a well-made and smooth watch of a film, with such a delicate subject, is the true challenge, and She Said is more than up to the task.
8. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Society has become incrementally comfortable with the idea of talking about sex. The #MeToo movement helped jumpstart more conversations around consent and how women’s sexuality is treated in media and other industries at large. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022) takes these big concepts and narrows them down to a personal story taking place almost entirely in a hotel room with two actors. With brilliant performances from Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson, Leo Grande is able to explore such complex subjects as sex work, female pleasure, generational approaches to sexuality, and more with delicious dialogue and wit.
7. The Inspection
Mainstream queer films have been criticized for featuring tragic stories of LGBTQ characters. There were some strides in bringing about a greater depth to queer stories this year, with Fire Island (2022) and Bros (2022), but to have sanitized the hurtful policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have been truly criminal. The Inspection is a semi-autobiographical film of director Elegance Bratton’s experience in the US military in the early 2000s. He doesn’t trip into pitfalls of asking viewers to pity his character, but rather shows us his experience, which ranges from bullying to kindness, and demonstrates the resiliency and self-respect of the brave queer veterans who underwent this treatment. Jeremy Pope bursts onto the screen in the lead role and Gabrielle Union, as his mother, is able to show us depths of range that no one would have expected.
6. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Del Toro had been laboring away for nearly a decade to get this film made, and even when he started production the stop-motion animation meant that it would take further years and patience to pull this project off. The Mexican director’s passion, however, has paid off and he delivers a multi-layered film that comments on grief, fascism, and existentialism all within the guise of the classic “Pinocchio” tale. With fantastic voicework, incredible animation, and Del Toro’s curation for emotional impact, this “Pinocchio” version rivals the hypnotism and wonder of the original Disney classic.
5. Great Freedom
Using the backdrop of post-WWII Germany, Great Freedom (2022) is a complex look at the definition of freedom. We’ve previously mentioned Hollywood’s fascination with queer suffering, and yet Great Freedom doesn’t look to make you cry as much as to undergo a sociological introspection about what “progress” in post-War Europe meant for different groups. How a “free” country can still be obsessed with controlling and homogenizing its people according to its ideology and worldview. Directed with delicate restraint by Sebastian Meise and with complicated and demanding performances from Franz Rogowski and Georg Frederich, Great Freedom is a fascinating and thought-provoking film, which will leave you pondering about what liberty means for a society and for an individual.
4. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
The Daniels directing team has always been a quirky and unconventional one, but with Everything, Everywhere, All at Once they’ve truly exploded their chest of tricks and ideas. This bonkers adventure through the multiverse incorporates and succeeds at so many genres that it’s hard to even categorize what it is exactly, which is what makes it so admirable. Despite all the bells and whistles, impressive action, and inventive alternate timelines, Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is able to keep itself grounded thanks to a deeply moving story of motherhood, family, and the immigrant plight to integrate. The ensemble in this film adds further depth to the character journeys, from Michelle Yeoh at her best to Stephanie Hsu as a breakout. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is a film with shiny crust and rich core.
Abortion has sadly become a timely issue within American society once again, due to the overturning of federal abortion rights by the Supreme Court. Thus, Happening (2022) hits viewers differently when watched from this context. Taking place in 1960s France, Happening follows a young girl as she seeks to have an illegal abortion, only to find herself at odds with her world and family. Happening showcases the heart wrenching discrimination that a woman trying to be in control of her own body faces, all due to preconceived notions of morality. Made with unrelenting clarity and boldness by director Audrey Diwan and with a restrained lead performance from the young Anamaria Vartolomei, Happening is an incredibly effective and contextually moving film for our times.
Todd Field has only released three films as a director in the last 20 plus years, yet when he does release a film, you know it’s been worth the wait. Tàr is no different. Taking place in the rarely explored world of classical music philharmonics, Tàr shines its focus on the incredibly successful Lydia Tàr conductor and sees how her hubris and arrogance slowly begin to work in Icarian ways against her. Tàr works beautifully as a character piece as well as delving into the scary subject of cancel culture and abuse of power dynamics within the art world. Led by Cate Blanchett in the best role of her career (which is saying something) Tàr proves to be a spellbinding and complicated watch, viewers will be challenged to consider their feelings for the protagonist, are we rooting for her? Is she a villain? The failure to answer either of these questions clearly is Field’s point.
1. Petite Maman
I saw many films throughout the year, and yet none were able to top the short and compact Petite Maman, with its simple fairy tale premise and emotionally clear story. Celine Sciamma follows up her brilliant Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) with a smaller in scale, yet arguably better film. Petite Maman is not focused on dazzling with effects or with a grand epic story, it’s rather focused on discovering and rediscovering its characters through simple premises and changed perspectives. The fact that Sciamma was able to do this largely with two actresses under the age of 10 is even more impressive. The young Josephine Sanz is small in her acting style when she needs to be, yet never becomes mysterious to viewers. At a scant 1hr and 13 mins, Petite Maman takes you on an emotional journey that had my tear floodgates burst when the last scene faded to black, making it the most emotionally impactful and my favorite film of the year.
Winner: Petite Maman
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Winner: Bones and All
The Black Phone
Bones and All
Best Family Film
Winner: Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers
Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Puss in Boots: the Last Wish
Winner: Todd Field (Tár)
Guillermo del Toro & Mark Gustafson (Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio)
Robert Eggers (The Northman)
Celine Sciamma (Petite Maman)
Maria Schrader (She Said)
Todd Field (Tár)
Best New Director
Winner: Abi Damaris Corbin (Breaking)
Abi Damaris Corbin (Breaking)
John Patton Ford (Emily the Criminal)
Carlota Pereda (Piggy)
Parker Finn (Smile)
Chloe Okuno (Watcher)
Winner: Cha Cha Real Smooth
Brian and Charles
Cha Cha Real Smooth
Triangle of Sadness
Best Action/Adventure Film
Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front
Everything, Everywhere All at Once
Top Gun: Maverick
Winner: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Fire of Love
Winner: Cate Blanchett (Tár)
Austin Butler (Elvis)
Emma Thompson (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande)
Mia Goth (Pearl)
Cate Blanchett (Tár)
Brendan Fraser (The Whale)
Winner: Austin Butler (Elvis)
Felix Kammerer (All Quiet on the Western Front)
Mason Thames (The Black Phone)
Austin Butler (Elvis)
Daryl McCormack (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande)
Jeremy Pope (The Inspection)