Deborah Ross

The Spectator’s best films of 2022

Our film critic picks her top ten of the year

  • From Spectator Life
Emma Mackey as Emily Brontë [Michael Wharley/Popara Films Ltd]

Banshees of Inisherin: a magnificent cinematic metaphor

The In Bruges writer-director Martin McDonagh has made another film starring Colin Farrell and Brendon Gleeson which, this time, is set in 1923 on the tiny Irish island of Inisherin. Colm (Gleeson) and Padraic (Farrell) are lifelong pals and drinking buddies until Colm abruptly decides that’s it, friendship over, and he’s deadly serious. If Padraic so much as approaches him he’ll cut off one of his own fingers. A cinematic metaphor for the Irish Civil War – you can occasionally hear distant guns from the mainland – where neighbour turned on neighbour, this is funny, sad, violent, despairing, always gripping, and features two magnificent, virtuoso performances. No, three. Jenny (the donkey) is superb too. 

Living: heartbreakingly tender

Living is a remake of one of the great existential masterpieces of the 20th century, Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952), which didn’t need remaking, many will grumble, but once you’ve seen this you’ll be glad that it was. It is as profoundly and deeply felt as the original and as heartbreakingly tender. It asks the same question – what makes a life meaningful? – but this time with Englishness, bowler hats, the sweet trolley at Fortnum’s and Bill Nighy. Really, what more could you want? Read the full review here.

No Bears: astonishing cinema

Jafar Panahi’s No Bears is, first and foremost, a wonderful film. More than this, you don’t need to know but I’ll tell you anyway. Panahi, an Iranian filmmaker, was banned from making films by the Iran government in 2010 yet has persisted clandestinely. One of his films (This Is Not a Film) was smuggled to the Cannes festival on a USB stick buried inside a cake. No Bears was wrapped in May this year; Panahi was arrested in July, and now he’s serving a six-year prison sentence for ‘propaganda against the system’. To make a film, any film, against such odds, is astonishing, but one as truly wonderful as this? Mind-blowing.

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