Redbrick writers and editors take a look back at their favourite films of 2022
Aftersun: James Evenden
There was only one new release that caused me to sink into existential dread in 2022, and that was Charlotte Wells’ devastating directorial debut, Aftersun. The film is a flashback to a holiday between Calum (Paul Mescal) and his daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio). Aftersun explores the idea that our parents are people too, with their own demons, that we might not even know about. Its mature approach to these themes, via its restrained dialogue and cinematography, captures a dynamic rarely explored with such grace and understanding.
Paul Mescal plays Calum as a quietly haunted man, trying to save face in front of Sophie. Mescal keeps his regret bubbling just below the surface, and his performance is arguably the most emotive of the year. Corio plays Sophie with equal poise, delivering her lines with a subtle knowingness as she begins to poke at the adult world around her, and what it means for her. Their chemistry is undeniable, with Wells pairing genuine heart with moments of genuine despair. Wells puts you in Sophie’s perspective, which keeps Calum’s signs of sadness suitably distant from us, as we try to understand what he is going through.
Aftersun fundamentally changed the way I perceive my parents, and my own memories. It shattered me and announces Wells as a director with a uniquely lingering emotional power. 2022 saw many great releases, but Aftersun was the one that got under my skin and stayed there. Watch it, and then call your parents, trust me.
Decision to Leave: Isobel Radakovic
Park Chan-wook as a director knows no bounds, covering everything from 1930s Korea in The Handmaiden to 1970s West Germany in The Little Drummer Girl, and his latest foray, the neo-noir drama Decision to Leave, has cemented him as one of the seminal directors of the 21st century. Following detective Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il), who is investigating a possible murder in the mountains, and his subsequent entanglement with the deceased’s widow, Song Seo-rae (Tang Wei), Chan-wook’s newest work portrays a beautifully raw tale of obsession between these two, as Hae-joon struggles to reconcile his attachment to Seo-rae with his ever-present suspicion towards her involvement in her husband’s death. The dual deceptions that occur between the two leads is a fascinating sight to behold, and both performances contribute to the film’s success.
At times, Decision to Leave makes for uncomfortable viewing, as scenes jump back and forth and questions remain unanswered for the audience, but this is precisely what makes it such an exceptional film. The constantly unsettling nature, of feeling that, as an audience, we are witnessing something we shouldn’t but can’t look away, speaks to Chan-wook’s skill as a storyteller. His alterations of time and space create a unique visual spectacle, and the way in which he places Hae-joon inside the scenes he is investigating, blurring the lines between fiction and reality, adds a layer of intimacy between the investigator and his suspect, and between audience and filmmaker.
With stunning visuals and a haunting soundtrack of violins, and the at-times crude combination of dark humour alongside a tension-filled murder investigation, Decision to Leave stands apart from its film counterparts in its sheer originality, and is easily one of the best films of 2022.
Belfast: Ilina Jha
Belfast, written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, is a film loosely inspired by Branagh’s childhood in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Set in 1969, the story follows nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), a charming young boy whose main concerns about homework, innocent questions about religion, and efforts to sit next to a girl he likes in school are set against the backdrop of the increasing violence of The Troubles. Buddy’s Protestant family, who just want to live a normal life in harmony with all their neighbours, Protestant and Catholic alike, soon find themselves endangered by this mindset.
Belfast is heart-wrenching, of course, looking back as it does on The Troubles and the violence that devastated the lives of so many – Branagh dedicates the film to ‘Those who stayed…Those who left…And all those who were lost’. But what one remembers this film for is the everyday life of Buddy and his family, which is (a lot of the time) very, very funny. Hill’s fantastic performance in the lead role is supported by his wonderfully perceptive grandmother (Judi Dench), his hardworking parents (Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan), and his ill grandfather (Ciarán Hinds). Additionally, the choice to shoot Belfast in black-and-white works to excellent effect, as well as enhancing the historical nature of the film.
Cliché as it is to say this, Belfast makes you both laugh and cry, and is, for me, a standout film of 2022.
The Menu: Jess Parker
Released to UK cinemas in November of 2022, Mark Mylod’s The Menu focuses on food-fanatic date Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his plus-one date Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), as they experience the menu of an acclaimed and eccentric chef, Chef Slowick (Ralph Fiennes). Slowick’s menu begins, as you would imagine, with a lavishly extravagant welcome dish. However, his dishes slowly descend into a didactic presentation of theatrical vengeance that personally targets his purposefully selected guests.
The Menu considers a vast array of harder-hitting themes that are woven into Slowick’s magnum opus. Seth Reiss and Will Tracy’s screenplay touches on consumer culture and the superficiality that Slowick’s work draws. Slowick and his guests love food for all the wrong reasons, and The Menu depicts his attempt at cleansing the craft of this sycophantic behaviour.
Amongst a number of significant new horror releases this year, The Menu stands out for its unique concept, outstanding performances, and captivating cinematography. The film is beautiful, and when backed up by such an incredible cast, there can be no doubt that The Menu was one of the most exciting and unexpectedly brilliant cinematic releases of 2022.
Bodies Bodies Bodies: Lula Izzard
Bodies Bodies Bodies is a horror/comedy about a wealthy group of young adults in a mansion who play a party game which quickly spirals violently out of control. I thought the film blended horror and comedy very effectively to create a unique and relevant satire of Gen Z culture, and watching it was a fun and chaotic experience. The film is filled with hyperbolic references to social media trends, internet jokes and pop-psychology phrases such as ‘toxic’ and ‘gaslighting’, and it explores and critiques the often shallowness of political commentary on social media, with a cynical outlook of how Gen Z engages with politics.
The characters in the film are shown to be progressive in some aspects, while simultaneously, the group is pervaded by prejudices particularly relating to social class and status, and display a superficial sense of care regarding mental illness, with characters dismissing each other’s struggles with mental health or reacting to others’ disclosures about mental health problems by centering the conversations around themselves. The satirisation of Gen Z, social media and political commentary felt accurate without coming across as overly condescending to this generation, and offered a criticism of wealth and privilege which is relevant to people across all generations. I also thought the soundtrack, which included ‘Hot Girl (Bodies Bodies Bodies)’, an original song by Charli XCX, was fantastic and encapsulated the mood of the film perfectly, and I have had it on repeat since watching the film.
The Banshees of Inisherin: Alice Weltermann
Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin begins with a quiet, strolling reflection, taking time to dwell on the idyllic Irish countryside and seafront. Inisherin, a seamless ecosystem, is presented to us as though passing by from the window of a train. This peace does not last, however, as a stroll becomes a walk, becomes a run, becomes a manic fleeing as everything comes crashing down. Banshees is a sweetly absurd narrative with some stellar performances that, somehow, despite being set in 1923, is poignantly relevant to now.
Things begin with a small, petty fight between drinking buddies Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and Pádraic (Colin Farrell), which soon escalates into a feud. Framed against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, conflict is intrinsic to this world as bombs continually go off in the distance, punctuating the tiff between our leads. These explosions, as well as Siobhan’s (Kerry Condon) eventual leaving, prompt us to remember that there is a way out of Inisherin, yet Colm and Pádraic stay. They seem unable to imagine a life without each other- as friends or as enemies.
Colm and Pádraic, from feelings of frustration, disrupt the claustrophobia of the town, with Colm eager to do something. The urge to go insane is perhaps relatable, at least to me, in today’s world of intense surveillance. Though Colm and Pádraic are surveyed not by Instagram but by the ever-watching eyes of gossiping shopkeepers, their disruption of the stable island is cathartic to a 21st-century audience.
Everything Everywhere All at Once: Emily Wallace
When a multiversal force is threatening to tear reality apart, the last person you would expect to save the world is Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), a middle-aged Chinese immigrant who owns a laundromat and has strained relationships both with her husband Waymond (Ke-Huy Quan) and daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Everything Everywhere All at Once, however, is hardly conventional. Facing all the different possibilities for how her life could have turned out, Evelyn embarks on a multiverse-hopping journey that is both brilliantly weird and beautifully emotional.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is truly unlike any film I have ever seen before, and I doubt I will ever see one quite like it again. Underneath the layers of the bizarre, humorous universes we witness (the Ratatouille inspired world being my personal favourite), it is a film that has family at its very core, with its exploration of mother-daughter relationships being particularly poignant. This is made all the better by the stellar performances from the cast, making it no surprise that it picked up four acting nominations at this year’s Oscars. It is a rare feat for a film to make me unsure if the tears on my face are from laughter or from a particularly emotional scene, yet Everything Everywhere All at Once masters this balance. Out of all the films I saw released in 2022, none have stayed with me in the way Everything Everywhere All at Once has, and it will no doubt remain one of my favourites for years to come.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On: Louis Wright
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021) is easily one of the best films of this decade. A fictionalised documentary centering around the life of Marcel (Jenny Slate), a shell living with his grandmother in search of his long-lost family, the film provides one of the most grounded and human stories seen in cinema for a long time.
Marcel, as a character, is incredibly well-written and seamlessly made a part of the world. The struggles he faces and his desire for companionship are all too real. Moreover, with the fantastic incorporation of stop-motion animation, it is easy to forget that Marcel is not a real actor. This level of blending live action and animation is something that many film studios can only try to reach.
In the modern age of entertainment centering around online influencers, parasocial relationships have become heavily prescient among younger audiences. This film is therefore incredibly pertinent in its discussion of the differences between a real community and an online audience. The film has a strong and well told message on the importance of having real people in your life to connect to rather than just those online.
Overall, between its expertly crafted narrative, engaging and easily loveable characters, and technically superb camerawork, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On finds itself being my favourite film of the last year.
Boiling Point: Benjamin Oakden
Boiling Point is a tension-ridden drama that is one of the best British films I have watched in recent years. Starring Stephen Graham and Vinette Robinson, the film follows a group of chefs and waiters as they attempt to deal with the stresses of running a restaurant.
The most notable element of Boiling Point is its innovative style of filming, with it appearing to be filmed in a single shot. This technique adds to the drama of the film, making the viewer feel like they are dropped into the struggles of the restaurant’s staff. The technique is a two-way street, making the drama of the characters feel incredibly hard-hitting and personal, while also making the rare moments of warmth far more memorable and touching.
The plot of the film delivers on the problems encountered by head chef Andy Jones (Graham) and his team over a single dinner service. The film is riddled with enticing, interconnected conflict between the characters, from the challenges of Front of House manager Beth’s (Alice Feetham) excessive pandering and micromanagement to the abusive and unsympathetic guests to the challenges of Jones’ personal life. However, each character still feels sympathetic to the audience even at their most stressed through a combination of stellar writing and acting. It makes for a unique and intense drama that has more than earned its television sequel.
Turning Red: Samantha Andrews
Pixar’s Turning Red is a whimsical dive into growing up and growing into yourself, and in doing so, became a film that truly stuck with me in 2022.
The film follows Meilin Lee as she discovers she will turn into a giant red panda when experiencing any extreme emotion. What I tell anyone at this point is to overlook how bizarre this plot might seem for a Pixar film. At once a heart-warming story of a teenage girl’s self-discovery and at once a delve into generational burdens, Turning Red deals with intense topics face on and with a lightness of spirit. It is ultimately a celebration of all of the things that make someone who they are, as Meilin learns to embrace her growing identity.
This is all without mentioning one of the finest outputs from Pixar in recent years: the fictional boyband 4*Town. Think N-SYNC meets BTS. I promise you, their song ‘Nobody Like U’ will get stuck in your head. The joy that this boyband brings Mei and her friends, mixed with the vibrant animation and 90s pop culture references finds Turning Red a burst of whimsy and unbridled fun.
Turning Red spoke to the teenage girl in me who dedicated her time to One Direction. In offering a beautiful and fun narrative of self-acceptance and growth, it became a firm favourite of 2022 for me, and I wish I could show it to my thirteen-year-old self.
Want to know more about some of the films on this list? Have a read of these reviews from Redbrick Film: