We asked ten contributors to pick three films from 2022 that they think everyone should see before making their top ten lists of the year. These are the choices of Christy Lemire.
It’s one of the great privileges of our profession as well as one of the hardest assignments: selecting the top 10 films at the end of each year. Quite often, there are acclaimed, beloved movies that end up on nearly everyone’s lists. But I try to mix it up a bit and throw in a few wild cards that you’ve perhaps not heard of, or maybe you’ve pondered seeing and just needed a little more encouragement. Here are three of them.
The poetic calm of narrator Miranda July’s voice creates a mesmerizing contradiction with the images we see on screen: slow-motion explosions of volcanoes erupting into the air, or deep crimson rivers of lava chugging menacingly downhill. This National Geographic documentary follows the life, love and work of married French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who dedicated themselves completely to each other and to their shared scientific obsession. They traveled the globe and put themselves in harm’s way repeatedly in their pursuit of deeper knowledge. We know from the beginning of director Sara Dosa’s gorgeous and inventive film that the Kraffts died in a volcanic explosion in 1991. But that in no way detracts from the movie’s drama; on the contrary, it makes us feel even more emotionally invested, as we come to know these brilliant, fearless and deeply idiosyncratic individuals. The inherent sense of danger gives the film an undercurrent of suspense, but “Fire of Love” is also surprisingly funny and playful. You’ve never seen anything like it. It’s streaming now on Disney+.
2022 is the Year of Colin Farrell, between “The Batman” and “The Banshees of Inisherin.” But his work in the excellent “After Yang” is the most subtle of all these performances, and a great reminder of his range. Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith play a married couple in the near future who’ve acquired what’s known as a technosapien: an older brother figure for their younger, adopted daughter, who is of Chinese descent. His name is Yang, and he’s played by Justin H. Min. And as the title suggests, “After Yang” is about what happens one day when he just ... shuts ... down. Writer/director Kogonada’s follow-up to “Columbus” is just as sensitive and beautifully acted. He has a delicate touch when it comes to mood, and he creates an evocative sense of place within this domestic setting that’s recognizable yet otherworldly. The cinematography and production and costume design all contribute greatly to the film’s subdued, dreamlike vibe. Sounds like a downer, but the high-tech dance off over the opening titles kicks the movie off on an upbeat, infectious high note. In all, it’s an impressive balancing act and an inspired depiction of memory, connectedness and grief.
It may not count as “overlooked,” per se, given that it earned Korean master Park Chan-wook top directing honors at Cannes. But “Decision to Leave” finds the director and co-writer operating in a more somber, subdued key, and so in time it may not be mentioned in the same breath with his more violent and erotic films like “Oldboy” and “The Handmaiden.” (I’m a big fan of “Stoker” myself and feel like it hasn’t gotten enough love.) The figures in his film noir may feel familiar—the world-weary detective, the seductive femme fatale—but the way they relate to each other is unexpected and steadily smoldering. Park Hae-il and Tang Wei have a gripping chemistry with each other, and director Park keeps us guessing as to what’s really going on between them all the way until the film’s devastating conclusion. His movies are always meticulous from a technical perspective, and this one’s no exception. The choice of wallpaper or dress color or even a box of takeout sushi says so much about these characters and this world. And yet within the romantic thriller’s steadily building tension, there are surprising moments of understated humor. See it on the big screen if you can.