Best of Cannes 2022

Away from the glitz, glamor and scorching heat of the Croisette, our Cannes team highlights the ten best films from the 75th edition, from Ruben Östlund’s latest to a stunning debut by Charlotte Wells.

Cannes in 2022 was, as ever, full of standing ovations and walkouts—although we’ve got the inside word on how those aren’t quite as scandalous as you might have been led to believe. The Croisette saw the flashy premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, a grandstanding celebration of Top Gun: Maverick—complete with an honorary Palme d’Or for Tom Cruise—and a second Palme for Ruben Östlund at the end of it all. The Swedish director’s Triangle of Sadness was swiftly scooped up by NEON, marking its third (that’s right, third) Palme d’Or win in a row after 2019’s Parasite started the #BongHive and last year’s Titane made us look at our cars differently.

Just like last year, Cannes was a major one for NEON, having either gone into the festival or secured rights there for several of the buzziest titles (Crimes of the Future, Broker, Moonage Daydream), while other hyped acquisitions included A24 jumping on the Paul Mescal bandwagon with Aftersun to complement their other Mescal-starrer, God’s Creatures, and MUBI nabbing Park Chan-wook’s award-winner Decision to Leave ahead of the fest.

Our correspondents Ella Kemp and Isaac Feldberg were there—alongside hundreds of other Letterboxd members eager for the specific experience that Cannes gives the dedicated film lover. They’ve compared their notes against yours to craft a shortlist of the ten best films at Cannes 2022 according to Letterboxd. (We have excluded the flashiest of big-budget extravaganzas, including Top Gun: Maverick, which has emerged as the highest-rated Cannes 2022 film and just secured a spot on our Top 250. They really don’t need our help, plus: Ella has covered Elvis elsewhere.)

Most of the films in the top ten premiered in competition, netting several prizes along the way, but we also recommend you keep an eye out for gnarly horror, The Beasts, from Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Isabel Peña, which is already surging with our members who caught it, and Saim Sadiq’s Joyland, written with Maggie Briggs—“The only movie at Cannes so far I wish I could watch twice”, according to Dellosa.


Aftersun

Written and directed by Charlotte Wells / International Critics’ Week

It is quite a thing to make a film as special, detailed and compassionate as Aftersun in the most mediocre place in the world: an all-inclusive holiday resort favored mainly by Brits. But debut filmmaker Charlotte Wells has done it with a film that broke many hearts at this year’s Cannes, with a final ten minutes that “had the entire audience sobbing”, according to Karl. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. As they fall apart, fans of Normal People and The Lost Daughter alike will revel in heart-throb Paul Mescal’s heartbreaking turn as a young, depressed father vacationing with his daughter (an unreal Frankie Corio in her debut role). Of Aftersun’s deeply intelligent use of old home-video footage and its gut-punch legacy, Rbasmayor says it best: “This hits really hard especially when losing our loved ones and you can hardly find any video or audio recordings of [their] voice, gazes and movements that remind us of their existence.” Rewatch it often, hold your loved ones close.

Need to know: Charlotte Wells is a Scottish filmmaker, former Sundance Institute fellow, and the writer and director of three short films before Aftersun, her feature debut. EK

Armageddon Time

Written and directed by James Gray / In competition

For Julian, James Gray’s Armageddon Time was the tonic he needed after a Cannes that was “chock-full of returning faces, and for the most part, these faces returned with more or less the same expression”. Vadim notes that “Gray’s gloomy takes on Greek tragedy, from Little Odessa up through We Own the Night, could all have had this title, their narratives devoted to plunging characters into endless downfalls.” Done with exploring the Amazon (The Lost City of Z) and outer space (Ad Astra), Gray returns home to Queens, New York, to excavate his own past. Set on the eve of Reagan’s America, as the presidential candidate warned of a looming armageddon for a generation, this coming-of-age drama is a deceptively expansive chronicle of the American moral crisis.

Without the rose-tinted glasses often brandished by directors making cine-memoirs, Gray’s film eulogizes the end of childhood innocence, mulling survivor’s guilt as an individual experience and an inherited cultural weight. Luke Hicks declares it his “first hard cry of the fest, a banal but explosive film brimming with tough-love meditations on class and race—and privilege (their offspring)—that somehow manages to be delicate about it all.” Quips Madelyn, it’s “Licorice Pizza 2: Lost in New York.” Extending that sentiment, Anton Vanha-Majamaa writes: “It’s only fitting that, while PTA made a sunny, fun and winking teen fantasia about his childhood, James Gray’s own memoir is a grave incrimination.” IF

Broker

Written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda / In competition

Long considered one of South Korea’s greatest screen faces, Song Kang-ho became the country’s first Best Actor victor at Cannes this year for his turn in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s empathetic and bittersweet Broker. Kore-eda-san won the 2018 Palme d’Or with Shoplifters; his new film centers on another found family, this one living at the margins of Korean society and brought together by “baby boxes” that allow infants to be dropped off anonymously and cared for by others. Broker unfolds as an aching and gently sentimental melodrama: “Kore-eda’s still raising the bar of crimes that can be committed with an open heart,” writes Gabriele.

Ever a master of observing daily lives to reveal the deeper emotions and belief systems driving his characters forward, Kore-eda fills each frame with images of everyday beauty, while relying on his exceptional cast to heighten the humanity of every quiet moment. “Twenty minutes into the movie and I already knew this was going to be a masterpiece,” reflects Jason, specifically praising the performance of Korean musician IU: “I haven’t seen her in anything else, but she is the heart and soul of this film.” IF

Close

Directed by Lukas Dhont, written by Dhont and Angelo Tijssens / In competition

“A man turned to me at the end of this and goes ‘next time get tissues, you were very annoying’.” It was brave of Josh to admit this failing in his Cannes etiquette after sitting through Dhont’s shattering portrait of adolescence, repressed queerness and white-hot grief. Josh was not alone in crying at Close. Following 2018’s Girl, Lukas Dhont brought his second feature to his second Cannes Film Festival and did not go home empty-handed—nor did he leave a dry eye in the house.

The Belgian filmmaker won the Grand Prix (sharing with Claire Denis for Stars at Noon, very ‘Xavier Dolan sharing with Jean-Luc Godard’ energy from a few years back) and stole the hearts of so many. The tale of two thirteen-year-old boys whose relationship begins to fracture after their relationship is questioned by classmates, Close is led by a revelatory performance from newcomer Eden Dambrine as Léo, who shoulders too much pain at an age where you don’t even know what that means yet. From Mariedebarbieux: “If I could give all my Letterboxd stars to Eden I would.” EK

Crimes of the Future

Written and directed by David Cronenberg / In competition

David Cronenberg, as per usual, has more on his mind than playing a grisly game of Operation with his all-star cast. Set in a dystopian future where “Accelerated Evolution Syndrome” has suppressed pain sensors and enabled rapid mutations within the human body, Crimes of the Future starts with the National Organ Registry—represented by Kristen Stewart’s raspy investigator Timlin—taking an interest in performance artist Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), whose art involves growing new organs for his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux) to surgically remove in front of an audience. Meditating upon the agonized lives of artists who give themselves to their craft, the Darwinian inevitability of transformation, and the hidden horrors of bureaucratic control, Crimes of the Future is a full-course meal in matters of the flesh.

At Cannes, Crimes kept the Croisette buzzing with lively debates and discussion long into the early hours after its evening premiere. I’m “not gonna keep yelling ‘Crimes of the Future is trans’”, writes Juan Barquin, “but Cronenberg really made a movie all about the absurdity and counterproductivity of how the world attempts to moderate and control bodies when we should simply allow ourselves to change and become attuned to them as we please.” Justin Chor Yu Liu agrees: “Crimes of the Future is wicked, weird, prestige, lo-fi, erotic, earthly, queer—all things clashing together to create a half-synthetic, half-authentic beastly creature.” IF

Decision to Leave

Directed by Park Chan-wook, written by Park and Chung Seo-kyung / In competition

Trust Park Chan-wook to turn a police procedural about a detective developing feelings for a suspect into a hopelessly romantic affair. Decision to Leave is his first feature film since 2016’s The Handmaiden—will his latest join that film in our official Top 250? Picking up the Best Director prize from the Cannes jury is a good start. “In the Mood for Blood,” writes Mara, while Julia gets even more fanciful with the reference points in her review: “Hannibal-flavored Vertigo with a side of Great Gatsby.”

There is so much to be said for the fluidity of Park’s camerawork, working with cinematographer Kim Ji-yong, the nuance in his and Chung Seo-kyung’s writing and the striking choices that rightly earned him that trophy. Decision to Leave reels you in with suspense and keeps you hooked on love before you emerge in a haze, overwhelmed with the sheer breadth and depth of human emotion and fallibility on offer. As Sonya Vseluybskaya overheard an elderly woman remark upon leaving the screening: “‘I need a break. My eyes and soul are hurts.’” The impact of a master. EK

Little Nicholas

Directed by Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre, written by Massoubre, Michel Fessler and Anne Goscinny / Special screenings

There aren’t nearly as many Letterboxd reviews yet for Little Nicholas as there are for other films on this list, but as Sweaterdreamer writes: “Guys trust me it’s super cute.” At once honoring the legacy of France’s most beloved comic-book character and the illustrator and writer (Jean-Jacques Sempé and René Goscinny) who brought him to life, Little Nicholas marks the feature debut for Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre, the latter an editor on animated films including 2019’s I Lost My Body. “So sweet and lovely and wholesome,” according to Alysha, the film has the curiosity and tenderness of 2011’s Winnie the Pooh and a vibrant, immersive animation style courtesy of Sempé himself, who brings this world to life beautifully. Heartfelt for those who grew up with this little boy, so charming for those lucky enough to meet him now, Little Nicholas is one of the most joyous, sensitive and inventive animated films in a long time. EK

Moonage Daydream

Written and directed by Brett Morgen / Out of competition

A compelling star does not always a compelling film make—even less a compelling documentary. It’s even harder to make a film that’s part documentary, part concert and part immersive voyage through time and space, especially when trying to capture the spirit of someone as effervescent as the late David Bowie. Yet, somehow, Brett Morgen did it. Following his portrait documentaries of fascinating figures Robert Evans, Jane Goodall and Kurt Cobain, Morgen has tackled someone perhaps even beyond human to impressive effect, according to Letterboxd reviews.

“I’m pretty sure that I just had one of the most intense and emotional film experiences of my life,” Tiger Lily wrote, with Marvin echoing the sentiment, calling the IMAX screening of Moonage Daydream “an almost spiritual experience”. We see Bowie on stage, we listen to Bowie in quieter moments, we relive his public appearances and are blessed with scenes that feel totally brand new. Jędrek Lisowski understands this isn’t just any film, calling it “as electrifying, eclectic, experimental and fascinating as Bowie himself”. EK

Showing Up

Directed by Kelly Reichardt, written by Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond / In competition

Set in Portland’s art scene, Showing Up follows a sculptor, Lizzy (Michelle Williams), who struggles to prepare for a new exhibition of her ceramics amid various personal and professional setbacks. Even as Lizzy’s deadline looms, Kelly Reichardt brings an impishly light touch to the drama; her film lingers in its setting and with its characters long enough to capture the creative community’s daily chaos as not a distraction that Lizzy resents, but a central source of inspiration for her art.

“Kelly Reichardt, here at her most seemingly mundane yet most richly evocative, perfectly captures the daily life of an artist and her simmering frustrations,” writes FilmLand Empire, calling Showing Up the film of the fest and possibly the year. “Reichardt sculpts a lovely portrait of a woman living too close to the fire, on the edge of burning out,” observes Juan. “Life, family, work, art, landlords, friends, rivals, nature and time (or lack thereof) all constantly drain us, but we keep existing for minor moments of beauty.” IF

Triangle of Sadness

Written and Directed by Ruben Östlund / In competition

Swedish satirist Ruben Östlund triumphed at Cannes this year, winning his second Palme d’Or (after 2017’s The Square) for this savage, squirm-inducing send-up of class status and the cultural elite. Divided into thirds, with each titled section allowing Östlund to adopt a new comic approach (in order: subtle, scatological and hysterically aggressive), Triangle of Sadness serves as a broad treatise on wealth and beauty as building blocks of social order, ones that its characters increasingly learn to wield as blunt objects. (Or, as Thijs Hanssen sums up, “It’s fun to laugh at rich people.”)

Östlund skewers his targets with ruthless zeal, and the raucous reception the film earned at Cannes marked it as a fest fave long before it won the Palme. “I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie with a crowd that reacted so viscerally,” writes Ana V. “People were laughing, yelling, and loudly exclaiming their disgust and/or amusement at the absolute shit-show happening on screen.” Those attending the film’s world premiere at the majestic Grand Théâtre Lumière, itself situated next to a 700-berth marina, couldn’t resist commenting on the irony. “Watching this in a room containing the extremely wealthy and yacht owners was really trippy,” observes Daniel. “The degree of cognitive dissonance the rich have when watching these kinds of films is real.” IF

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