Screen and Film School Brighton’s student blogger Zac Haydn-Jones reflects on some of the hidden gems you may have missed last year.
2022 was a great year for film, from the resurrection of 80s action with Top Gun Maverick, to the genre-bending madness of Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, there was a fantastic diversity in what was released. In this blog I’m going to go into three films that had their theatrical release this year that might have, unlike Top Gun, flown under your radar.
The Worst Person In The World
Directed by Joachim Trier this Norwegian film follows Julie through a turbulent love life as she tries to decide what she wants to do. (Technically released through a festival run in 2021 but UK theatrical release was 2022 so give me break!).
As a dramatic rom-com, this film delivers on all of those genres perfectly and exactly when you need them to, one moment you’ll be laughing, the next you’ll ‘have something in your eye’. It’s a rom-com yes but not in the Richard Curtis sense. This film plays the tropes of the genre only to hit you even harder when it doesn’t shy away from the low points of life, love and lineage. It feels real and most likely will touch on something you have experienced in your own life.
One of the best things about this film is the way the characters are written. Never a binary good or bad, the characters feel true to life. Just when you’ve decided you don’t like that character, the following scene will show them in a completely different light and shatter your perception in a way that never feels like that’s what they’re trying to do.
Told in a chapter style that makes it feel like it could easily be based on a Sally Rooney novel, with brilliant and engaging performances from every party and some great cinematography, the film will have you invested from start to finish. As long as you can get past the subtitles that is!
Directed, Edited and Adapted by Kogonada, After Yang follows Jake as he tries to repair his family android ‘Yang’ after it shut down. In the process he discovers things about the Android and the world which he didn’t expect.
This film is a gorgeous exploration of what makes us human. A sci-fi that trades war and dystopia for family life and memory, After Yang examines the role technology plays in our family life and the role it could play in the future while at the same time asking what we value while we’re here. A huge part of the film is Yang’s memories, but as an Android he has to choose what he commits to storage and so, while we see what he has chosen to keep, we can’t help but ask ourselves what we would.
The way the film presents the past is fascinating. They will play the scene with certain lines jumping and being replayed/overlayed with that same line again but seemingly from a different take. The result is a fantastic illustration of the volatility of memory that draws parallels to glitches that you would see in technology, that you would see in Yang. These sections are also filmed handheld and feel much more human than the locked off stationary shots of the rest of the film, which are gorgeous in their own right.
The production design too is something to marvel at, with the designer seemingly having invented a new interior design style that at once feels futuristic and not too far away. After Yang is a film that will suck you into its world and leave you with musings on mortality, ruminations on relations, and an understanding of just how a person could call an android son.
Charlotte Wells’ directorial debut, Aftersun is a film that follows Sophie as she remembers the last holiday she took with her father. 20 years on she realises things about him she didn’t as an eleven-year-old.
If you are a writer, watch this film. A masterclass in ‘show don’t tell,’ the subtlety in which Aftersun tells its story is astonishing. Never telling you what to think or explaining what’s happening, the film feels like it exists outside of the audience.
That same subtlety is present in the brilliantly bold cinematography. One shot in particular that comes to mind sees the camera pointed away from the action, instead framing the characters in the reflection of a powered off CRT TV and the reflection of a mirror, mostly obscured by books. Without spoiling anything, this shot portrays so much about this moment and visually encapsulates the structure of the film. Again, it doesn’t make it easy for the audience, much like the film’s writing, you have to look closely to find what they want you to.
Aftersun is a tender, touching film about growing up, being grown up, and what we missed about the grownups because we were growing up. Paul Mescal gives a gut wrenchingly good performance, showing again that he might just be one of the best young actors working at the moment, and Frankie Corio, an eleven-year-old in her first ever role, astounds with her natural talent. It’s a film that’s made a home for itself inside my head. A film that feels both like a breath of fresh air and like it has somehow always existed.
All of the films I’ve talked about in this blog are original, personal stories. They don’t rely on spectacle or action or larger than life characters, they are simple stories that keep you engaged throughout. If you are a student or an aspiring filmmaker these are the kind of films you want to be watching, because they are the kind of films you could be making soon. Low budget, yes, but the sheer emotion present in the films I have mentioned prove that that’s rarely a bad thing.
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