The Best of 2022... So Far... And What's Coming

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday May 8, 2022
Originally published on April 27, 2022

A scene from 'Mascarpone'
A scene from 'Mascarpone'  

Spring has sprung, and some terrific indie and studio releases are in theaters and streaming everywhere. And there are more wonderful movies just around the corner — some tackling queer stories outright, some peripherally and some not at all, but what links the following films is authentic and/or sheer audacity in storytelling or sweepingly spectacular cinematic spectacle (note: the first two recommendations).

'Downton Abbey: A New Era'




The saga of the Crawley clan continues, bracketed by a wedding and a funeral. And this new film exceeds expectations, with several plot devices proving enchanting. One involves Matriarch Violet (Maggie Smith) announcing she's inherited a villa in the South of France, via an old flame. This is rich with intrigue. Meanwhile, to keep Downton running properly, Lady Mary (the always-engaging Michell Dockery) agrees to allow a Brit film crew to shoot on the premises. Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock and Dominic West add nicely to the existing cast. And lonely gay Barrow (Robert James-Collier) may finally see a world beyond the closet. I'll say no more. Creator Julian Fellowes knows what his audience expects and yet manages to develop his characters further. Smith has some lovely scenes near the end that are rich with nuance.

"Downton Abbey: A New Era" opens in theaters on May 20, 2022.

'Lost Illusions'




"For Lucien, it all began with ink, paper and the love of beauty."

Xavier Giannoli's ambitious adaptation of Honoré de Balzac's epic novel, "Lost Illusions," is admirable, scarily-timely and too jam-packed — it could have easily expanded by 45 minutes and reduced the maddeningly rapid narration. That said, the tale of 19th century French "fake news," where journalists were basically highly-paid whores, is a riveting one. Winner of 7 Cesars including Best Film, the raison to see the film is Benjamin Voisin's captivating performance as Lucien de Rubempré, whose "pure heart" would be manipulated, corrupted, and, ultimately, destroyed. The supporting cast is excellent, with Xavier Dolan providing a sly, homoerotic presence as a budding writer who befriends Lucien. (That relationship should have been explored further) Voisin's performance in François Ozon's "Summer of '85" marked him as a talent to watch. His performance here proves he is France's rapidly rising star.

"Lost Illusions" opens June 10, 2022, in New York and June 17, 2022, in Los Angeles, followed by a national expansion.

'I Love America'




The fabulous Sophie Marceau anchors this French Amazon original rom-com, "I Love America," playing Lisa, a single 50-year-old film director who, upon losing her mother, decides to move from Paris to L.A. With the help of her super gay bestie Luka (Djanis Bouzyani), she embarks on app-dating and meets the handsome, young, yummy John (Colin Woodell). From there, things get surface complicated. And there's even some fun drag numbers. Writer-director Lisa Azuelos and co-writer Gael Fierro have fashioned a sweet, lovely cinematic valentine to the medium itself. But it's the gifted Marceau's who gives this film its heart and soul.

"I Love America" launches worldwide on Prime April 29, 2022

'Cow'




I love cows. Always have. But that doesn't mean I was ready to watch a doc that followed the mundane life of a dairy cow in Britain. Yet, for 90+ minutes I was enthralled by Andrea Arnold's meditative and ultimately profound work, "Cow," the most compelling documentary in years. The film places the camera in front of Luma, as she gives birth and then goes about her exploited days. What Arnold asks of the viewer is a kind of bovine empathy — to experience the world as a cow, from the cow POV — and specifically an animal whose life is spent serving man's needs. The ending is like a wrecking ball to the soul.

"Cow" is currently on VOD.

'As They Made Us'




Candice Bergen should be acknowledged for having become one of our best actors. But when, exactly, did this happen? She certainly had a slightly rocky start when Sidney Lumet saw that promise back in 1966 with "The Group." In 1979, in Alan J. Pakula's "Starting Over," she gave one of the funniest performances of that decade, garnering her only Oscar nomination, and went on to great success on TV as "Murphy Brown." In Mayim Bialik's impressive feature debut, "As They Made Us," Bergen fearlessly embodies a truly flawed, abrasive mother that we have all come across. The film itself is a remarkably authentic, non-judgmental portrait of a dysfunctional family buoyed by Dianna Agron's excellent performance. It's the women in this family — in this film — that for better or worse, hold it together.

'Operation Mincemeat'




I'm not quite sure why John Madden's well-crafted and brilliantly cast gem "Operation Mincemeat" fell by the wayside last year (apparently it was Oscar-eligible), but it has now bowed on Netflix and is more than worth a look. There are seven million World War II films but, surprisingly, very few deal with the Invasion of Sicily (actually, there are no major movies that take on that subject directly, with "Patton" featuring it). Madden's film tells of the unbelievable 1943 British mission, approved by Churchill, that fooled Hitler into believing the Allies were planning a ground invasion of Greece, not Sicily, saving thousands of lives and probably moving the victory needle. What it entailed must be seen to be believed. The superb Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Penelope Wilton, Kelly Macdonald, and Jason Isaacs are among the stellar cast, with Johnny Flynn a particular standout as a suave, but still fledgling, Ian Fleming.

'I'll Show You Mine'

Megan Griffiths' "I'll Show You Mine," a winning two-hander, runs a bit out of steam in its second half, mostly because its daring dissipates, but it is still worthwhile. Nick (Casey Thomas Brown) arrives on the doorstep of his aunt Priya (Poorna Jagannathan), ostensibly prepared to record his memoirs for her to write, but things turn into more of a therapy session for both. Nick is a self-proclaimed pansexual with a history of exploitation as a gender non-conforming model, while Priya's sexsploits are more secret — until they're not. Both actors are dynamic, and Griffiths does a nice job directing an ambitious script by Tiffany Louquet, Elizabeth Searle, and David Shields.

'Barbarians'




You must appreciate a film where the two female leads show more bravery and intelligence than the two men. "Barbarians," Charles Dorfman's debut feature, brims with a love for cinema, yet slyly dares to break a slew of the established rules. Four friends gather for a dinner party to celebrate Iwan Rheon's ("Game of Thrones," "Vicious") birthday. After a few revelations, the men begin behaving badly and the narrative shifts focus. Rheon, so sweet as Ash in "Vicious" and so vicious as Ramsey in "Game of Thrones," is more grounded here. "Barbarians" is the year's nasty indie sleeper.

"Barbarians" is currently playing in select theaters, digital platforms and on VOD.

'The Rose Maker'




Who knew a small French film about a group of people who breed roses could be so enchanting? The superb Catherine Frot ("Marguerite," the original Florence Foster Jenkins) leads a terrific cast in a sweetly directed comedy (by Pierre Pinaud) about a once-successful rose grower who has hit hard times and must hire three unskilled workers to help her save her father's business. Hottie newcomer Melan Omerta excels as a young man wanting to make a better life for himself. This film should be screened in Fragrance-vision, since one longs to smell the roses.

"The Rose Maker" is currently playing in NY, LA and Pasadena, and will open in additional cities.

'Mascarpone'




I've written quite a bit about this bold, gay-themed Italian film, but there's a reason for that — the more I see it, the more I appreciate the queer-empowering message and proclamation that self-love is the key to any fulfilling life. And the little Valentine kisses to the best of cinema as well.

Gay men will find plenty of hot guys, nudity, and sex to keep them stimulated, but they will also be treated to a queer-positive odyssey that isn't afraid to dive deeper than the normal gay rom-com in depicting the protag Antonio's search for his identity. Giancarlo Commare does his own subtle subtextual search, while on the surface delivering the expected rather seamlessly. Directors Matteo Pilati and Alessandro Guida are to be commended for their audacity and their perspicacity. Sample this one. You may find yourself going back for seconds.

"Mascarpone" will be released on DVD and VOD on May 10, 2022.

Frank J. Avella is a film journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep and a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. Frank is a recipient of the International Writers Residency in Assisi, Italy, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship. His short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com) and won awards. His screenplays (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW) have also won numerous awards in 16 countries. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute