by Charlotte Simmons

This year is something of a phoenix moment for the world of film; after cinemas all over the world faced the brunt of the pandemic at the turn of the decade, box offices took the effects squarely on the chin. And with streaming having already been on the up-and-up, many wondered if the coronavirus was the final nail in the coffin for the big screen. But 2022 has proven that the film industry has more than enough gas in the tank to keep old and new moviegoers hungry for more, and my stomach, the unorthodox bugger that it is, is constantly grumbling for stories; stories that dazzle, provoke, make you think, and just might leave you disappointed in a way that’s oddly satisfying. So, with the understanding that I haven’t even come close to hitting all of 2022’s new releases, this three part feature series will coyly examine six movies that I absolutely adored this year, and six others that I adored much, much less than that.

Today, we’re going to talk about the multiverse, body horror, and murder mysteries that made me wish I was the victim.

Loved: Everything Everywhere All At Once

I had the displeasure of not making it to the cinema before A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once ducked out from the roster. I was able to get a viewing in thanks to YouTube’s movie renting feature, but with the caveat that the film’s English subtitles for the Chinese dialogue were not available with YouTube’s closed captions; thus, I finished my viewing having missed Waymond’s touching “laundry and taxes” speech, which leaves me miffed to this very day. Even missing that, though, it’s not hard to see why everyone everywhere spoke so highly of this one, and it all boils down to its penchant for deft originality in a swirl of nuances that almost beg it to take the easy way out, from its take on the multiverse right down to its prevailing themes of existentialism and nihilism. Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; everyone seems to know what a multiverse is now; the idea of so many different realities existing at once can simultaneously launch and evaporate a story’s stakes in the blink of an eye, and its endless possibilities could justify narrative laziness in the wrong hands. But Everything Everywhere refused to submit, crafting a uniquely organic approach to multiversal nuances as the nihilistic beckonings of infinite realities eventually gave way to the hopeful triumph of the human spirit. And really, that’s a lesson the film industry, nay, the world, can learn from A24’s blockbuster hit of the year; whether it’s the narrative anarchy presented by a multiverse or the urge to simply disconnect from one’s emotions on the basis of our small scope in the universe (or even just the basis that it’s the easier option), daring to find your own original beauty just might be the ticket for success (a $100 million ticket, in Everything Everywhere’s case).

Did Not Love: See How They Run

Perhaps the single most mishandled tool in the fiction writer’s bag of tricks is meta humour and meta narratives; two exhausting practices that have caused more eye rolls than a Thanksgiving dinner at Apple HQ. Simply put, the downfall of the meta narrative neatly stems from the quizzical trend of creating something bad, but also making sure that your audience knows that you know it’s bad, as though that somehow excuses the practice of lazy art. See How They Run, a murder mystery seeking to spoof Agatha Christie (a move that stacks the odds against it from the outset) is horrendously guilty of this; you can almost hear the film’s creative team whispering “Get it?” into your ear every other minute. You know you’ve reached the point of no return when even Saoirse Ronan can’t save your film. Alternatively, perhaps you know such a thing when one of the film’s characters, a screenwriter, begins mulling over creative differences he had with the murder victim, only to have his exact gripes recreated on screen, eliciting groans that could break the sound barrier. Let See How They Run be a lesson to aspiring screenwriters; just because you’re in on the joke, doesn’t mean people won’t make one of you.

Loved: Crimes of the Future

Canadian auteur David Cronenberg’s latest release was a criminally quiet one; in fact, there’s a good to fair chance that I managed to catch it on the one day it was playing. It’s a shame, considering the positively delicious mythopoeic stylings that Crimes of the Future so graciously boasted. For those of you not in the know, mythopoeic is a sort of opposition to the scientific, wherein the subject is understood simply by observing that it does what it wants to do. Scientific thought, meanwhile aims to understand a subject intricately and mechanically, with the intention to declare one’s own conveniences and truths upon it. In short, the mythopoeic challenges humans to live alongside the world’s many pieces rather than to try and build ourselves above it. Putting aside the fact that the distinction is one of the largest influences on my own writing, it was an essential direction for Cronenberg, the godfather of body horror, to take; the director, who helmed 2005’s A History of Violence, famously refuses to accept less than the whole of the human body, from the grotesque to the heroic to the downright unethical aspects that we project onto it in the first place. And after having watched Crimes’ protagonist Saul Tenser take a hardline stance on how his own evolved body interacts with the world, the mythopoeic is an evergreen nuance that’s been all the more reinforced for me.

Did Not Love: Three Thousand Years of Longing

It seems foolproof; Tilda Swinton falling in love with a genie played by Idris Elba. Truthfully, you might not know the entire scope of what you’re in for, but it must be something, right? Instead, Three Thousand Years of Longing managed to be one of 2022’s most fascinating films in all the wrong ways; it squanders opportunities to explore intriguing narratives, encompasses the worst aspects of the romance genre, and, perhaps most crucially, shows us that there’s a reason why many stories are presented in the medium that they are. Swinton’s Alithea Binnie, a self-satisfied academic who takes pride in such an ethos, seems to reject it at the drop of a hat in the middle of the Djinn’s many stories. Appropriate for the story-obsessed scholar? Perhaps, but at the price of discarding the independence she prided herself on just moments before that happened? It doesn’t send the healthiest message, in any case. What’s more, the supernatural presence of the Djinn coupled with Binnie’s bookish tendencies laid the groundwork for what could have been an enthralling exploration of the relationship between science and mythology; one that I may be pre-dispositioned for given the musings I admitted in the Crimes of the Future entry. But we instead spend most of the film learning the Djinn’s backstory; an account that may have soared if it were a movie of its own, but as visual exposition with an outcome that we already know is narratively inconsequential, it’s rather thin and boring.

Speaking of exposition, most of the film hinges on long monologues from the Djinn, so it doesn’t take long to piece together that the film was based on a literary short story (“The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A.S. Byatt, for those interested). It serves as an important reminder that the literary medium has its strengths, as does the visual medium; if a hefty chunk of the film involves verbal exposition, it leaves very little reason to not just write a book instead. There’s a reason we don’t have a multi-billion dollar cash cow called the Marvel Literary Universe.

Next time, we’ll dig into the many-headed beast that is romanticism, and the importance of flexibility when it comes to our relationship with genre.

Charlotte Simmons is a queer writer and art enthusiast currently living on the unceded Wolastoqey territory in New Brunswick, Canada. A wearer of many hats, she can be found at her weekly excursion to the local Cineplex, quietly or loudly obsessing over the latest story she consumed, exercising her writing muscles at one of her many freelance gigs, or working fervently on one of her own stories."