Because our movie-watching habits have changed drastically over the past few years, the movie-calendar year as we’ve come to know it may be shifting too. Traditionally, the first three months tend to be dominated by the Oscar campaigns of movies released in the previous year. The final four months of the year, kicked off by the early-fall film festivals, serve as a runup to the next round of Oscars. With so many people streaming films not just around their release date but long afterward, the lines are blurrier now. But even so, it’s always smart to pay attention to the films released in the first half of the year. That’s when the small surprises hit, movies that you check out on a whim and end up loving. Here are five movies from the early months of 2022 that you don’t want to miss.
A young couple, played by Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith, seek to protect their young daughter (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) from the reality that her “brother,” an A.I. humanoid, has fallen into a state of malfunction and cannot be repaired. The second fiction feature from Kogonada (Columbus) is gorgeous and wistful, a meditative reflection on memory that’s somehow both soothing and energizing.
An 8-year-old girl, Nelly (Joséphine Sanz), going through some emotional upheaval, meets a girl her own age while playing in the woods near her recently deceased grandmother’s house. Marion (Gabrielle Sanz, Joséphine’s real-life twin) happens to look just like Nelly, and the two become fast if cautious friends—because Nelly understands before Marion does that these two girls come from different planes of time. French filmmaker Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) has fashioned a gorgeously matter-of-fact fairytale that respects the inner lives of children, celebrating their ability to understand complexities that we assume are beyond them.
Paris, 13th District
French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone, The Sisters Brothers) gives us a film about young people in love—or perhaps only in lust—in current-day Paris: Émilie (Lucie Zhang), a stubborn, prickly young woman working at a dead-end telemarking job, auditions Camille (Makita Samba), a charming young teacher, as a potential roommate and ends up falling for him. Nora (Noémie Merlant), a 30-something real-estate agent who has just decided to return to school, is humiliated when her classmates mistake her for a popular online porn star, Amber Sweet (Jehnny Beth). The lives of these four characters intertwine and collide, with some awkward misfires, in this loose adaptation of several short stories by American cartoonist Adrian Tomine. Shot in silky black and white, it’s one of the treasures of this movie year.
Audrey Diwan’s tense, quietly radical film is the story of a young woman in early 1960s France, played by Anamaria Vartolomei, who discovers she’s pregnant and cannot, according to French law at the time, legally obtain an abortion. There are parts of the film—which is based on a 2000 memoir by French writer Annie Ernaux and won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival last year—that are sometimes difficult to watch. But the most harrowing part about it is its vision of a culture, and a country, preoccupied with controlling women’s lives—a past that appears to be looming as our own future in the United States.
This adaptation of Ben Mcintyre’s hugely popular book of the same name traces a real-life deception pulled off by a group of British operatives in 1943, using a corpse armed with a fake identity and an elaborate backstory to keep the Nazis in the dark about the impending Allied invasion of Sicily. Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen play the intelligence officers who pull off this magnificent feat; Kelly Macdonald and Penelope Wilton are the women who help craft essential elements of the subterfuge. This story has been filmed before, as The Man Who Never Was, in 1956 (based on the memoir of Ewen Montagu, the officer played here by Firth). Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) guides this new version of the story with a steady hand: his movie is lively and smart, made with a quiet attention to detail and craftsmanship that’s a rarity these days.
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