the best films of 2022 so far

The Best Films of 2022, So Far

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A little over halfway through 2022, the year in movies has already been intriguing, with one of the best-reviewed releases so far topping the box office. That would be “Top Gun: Maverick.” But if you’ve already seen it and want to catch up on other strong films, I asked The Times’s co-chief critics, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, for their favorites. Here they are, in no particular order. — Stephanie Goodman

The story: A laundromat owner (Michelle Yeoh) is stressed out. Her husband is filing for divorce. Her daughter is depressed and angry at her. And to top it off, the I.R.S. is auditing her. When she goes in to fight the audit, her encounter with an unbending bureaucrat sets off a multiverse romp that showcases the lives she could have lived (and the hot-dog fingers she could have had) and, more important, different paths for her relationships.

A.O. Scott’s take: “The antic cleverness serves a sincere and generous heart,” our critic wrote of the film directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who work under the name the Daniels. “Yes, the movie is a metaphysical multiverse galaxy-brain head trip, but deep down — and also right on the surface — it’s a bittersweet domestic drama, a marital comedy, a story of immigrant striving and a hurt-filled ballad of mother-daughter love.”

Read the review, and interviews with Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, who plays her husband. You may remember Quan, who started off as a child actor, as Short Round in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

Watch: It’s still in some theaters, or you can buy it on major digital platforms. Also watch an Anatomy of a Scene with the directors.

The story: In southwestern France in the early 1960s, Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a 23-year-old student hoping to become a writer. But when she becomes pregnant, her efforts to obtain an abortion, newly criminalized at the time, turn desperate. The film is based on the memoir by the French writer Annie Ernaux.

Manohla Dargis’s take: The director Audrey Diwan’s “gaze remains clear, direct, fearless,” our critic wrote. “She shows you a part of life that the movies rarely do. By which I mean: She shows you a woman who desires, desires to learn, have sex, bear children on her terms, be sovereign — a woman who, in choosing to live her life, risks becoming a criminal and dares to be free.”

The story: In the world devised by the writer-directer Peter Strickland, culinary delights can also be musical, and groups perform by pressing purée on a blender or dropping food in hot oil. At a manor house where players and devotees have gathered, egos and strongly held principles bring the tension to a boil. (Who could resist?)

A.O. Scott’s take: “The film isn’t so much an allegory or fantasy as a witty philosophical speculation on some elemental human issues,” Scott wrote. “We are animals driven by lust, hunger and aggression, but also delicate creatures in love with beauty and abstraction. Those two sides of our nature collide in unexpected, infinitely variable ways.”

The story: The pandemic may be receding, but Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) continues to work from her loft, perhaps out of agoraphobia, at a job that involves resolving bugs in KIMI, a Siri-like digital assistant. While working on one of those bugs, she thinks she hears a violent crime. Her efforts to follow up put her in jeopardy.

Manohla Dargis’s take: The thriller “self-consciously draws from an assortment of cinematic referents,” including “Rear Window,” our critic wrote. But the director Steven Soderbergh “pulls out all his tricks, clearly having a blast.” Even as the plot grows more ominous, “he maintains a lightness of touch and a visual playfulness that keeps the movie securely in the realm of pop pleasure.”

Read the review.

Stream it on HBO Max.

The story: In this Afrofuturist vision from the American multidisciplinary artist Saul Williams and the Rwandan filmmaker Anisia Uzeyman, a Burundi miner (Kaya Free) and an intersex runaway (Cheryl Isheja and Elvis Ngabo) meet up in an African community dedicated to imagination and solidarity.

A.O. Scott’s take: The plot is “loose and suggestive,” he wrote, describing the film as “a collage of vivid images, sounds and words that punch the movie’s themes like hashtags. Williams and Uzeyman marry anarchist politics with anarchist aesthetics, making something that feels both handmade and high-tech, digital and analog, poetic and punk rock.”

Read the review.

Watch it in theaters.

The story: In N’Djamena, Chad, 15-year-old Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio) has been expelled from school because she’s pregnant. Her single mother, the enterprising Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane), gets by selling coal stoves she concocts from salvaged tires. So both women have a stake in their quest for a safe abortion.

Manohla Dargis’s take: The director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun “shows you women in motion and in revolt, fleeing and escaping and at times running sly, joyous circles around the men in their lives,” the critic wrote. “And, if you watch the final credits, you will hear the sounds of women’s laughter, too — a divine and triumphant coda.”

Read the review and an interview with the director and a star of the film.

Watch: Stream it on Mubi; rent or buy it on major digital platforms.

The story: In a project begun before the pandemic and completed during it, the directors Pietro Marcello (“Martin Eden”), Francesco Munzi (“Black Souls”) and Alice Rohrwacher (“Happy as Lazzaro”) traveled Italy interviewing young people about everything from their career hopes to the meaning of happiness.

A.O. Scott’s take: “It would be a mistake to impose too much coherence on such a kaleidoscopic, open-ended collective portrait,” he wrote. Still, the movie is “an affirmation of the durability of an approach to moviemaking predicated on curiosity, democratic principles and the idea that people can speak for themselves.”

The story: Young Nelly has gone with her mother and father to the French countryside to clear out the home of her grandmother, who has recently died. In the woods, Nelly befriends another girl building a hut just as Nelly’s mother once did. As the two children, who resemble each other, grow close (they’re played by the twins Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz), their enigmatic connection hints at deeper bonds.

Manohla Dargis’s take: “Part of the mystery is that it’s unclear what kind of story this is and where — with its charming child and restrained melancholy — it could be headed,” our critic wrote. By withholding information, the director Céline Sciamma is “encouraging you to look at this place and story with the open eyes of a child, which means putting aside your expectations of how movies work.”

Read the review.

Rent or buy it on major digital platforms.

The story: In her fly-on-the-wall documentary filmed during the 2016-17 academic year, Maria Speth follows the title character, a charismatic sixth-grade teacher with a counterculture bent, and his mostly immigrant students in a German village north of Frankfurt.

A.O. Scott’s take: Though we don’t learn a lot about the subjects’ lives outside school, a few students “come into special focus, nearly upstaging their teacher and contributing to the emotional richness of the film,” our critic wrote. “This isn’t a heroic-teacher drama about idealism in the face of adversity. It’s an acknowledgment of the hard work of learning, and the magic of simple decency.”

The story: A young Swedish woman with the stage-name Bella Cherry (Sofia Kappel) is newly arrived in Los Angeles and determined to become a star in the porn industry. As she performs in extreme scenes, trying to overcome her own limits, she observes how the work affects the humanity of fellow performers, men and women.

Manohla Dargis’s take: “It’s a smart, gutsy, wholly unexpected movie that, at center, is an old-fashioned story about an ambitious striver overcoming the odds to become another American success story,” the critic wrote. The director Ninja Thyberg “knows the horrors, as an excruciating scene underscores. But women make porn and women watch it, and for different reasons, including because they like it. Because it’s their choice.”

Read the review.

Rent or buy it on major digital platforms.