What’s Worth Seeing – or not – from 2022

Another year has come and gone – and the film industry still hasn’t really quite recovered from the pandemic. A handful of blockbuster sequels brought audiences back to the big screen – Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water among others. Only one of the top ten films at the UK box office wasn’t part of a major studio franchise – Baz Luhrmann’s eponymous Elvis biopic. But with cinemas increasingly relying on the sequels to keep crowds buying tickets, far more smaller and medium-budget films than ever before are spending just a week or two on the big screen, before transferring to streaming services, such as Netflix.

Top: The Tourist and The Phantom of the Open are among the highlights, while bottom: Conversations with Friends and Armageddon Time are among the disappointments of 2022

But superhero films haven’t turned out to be infallible. Many have proved to be less immune to bad reviews than they used to be – while DC has had a particularly ignominious year; the intended franchise of Black Adam was scrapped after one film, Henry Cavill was dropped as Superman just weeks after his return was announced and the completed Batgirl film was infamously scrapped, before its release.

The year ahead could see its own controversy, as the Golden Globes make their comeback, despite returning from allegations of racism and corruption to new allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. It’s not so much that no-one cares about scandal in Hollywood anymore – the TV network NBC has cut its contract to screen the awards to just one year – it’s more likely to be that the Globes just seem to be better protected from the kind of journalism that nearly sunk them two years ago, having been bought by Eldridge Industries, which also has an interest in all of the major Hollywood press – Variety, the Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.

As the industry continues to change, one benefit of newer release patterns – for both film and TV – is that more of the productions you might have missed are likely to be available to catch-up on, either immediately or before long, on one of the many streaming services.

So – mindful of the fact that I haven’t seen everything that’s been available this year – here are my recommendations of What’s Worth Seeing – and not worth seeing – on the big and small screen – if you get a chance – or fancy a bit of self-flagellation.

What's Worth Seeing from 2022...

...on film ...on TV
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN - Mark Rylance is on top form as a dock worker who affectionately cons his way into the the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. From writer-turned-director Craig Roberts, it's quirky British comedy at its best, exploring the notions of ambition, honour, pride and loyalty as it makes you laugh - both with the protagonist - and at him. THE TOURIST - Jamie Dornan impresses as a fish-out-of-water Irishman in the Australian outback, in an ambitious and compelling thriller, full of eccentrics and pantomime villains, that's hugely enjoyable despite feeling a little clunky and deflating at times. Think of Guy Pearce’s Leonard from Memento being dropped into the Fargo TV series.
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN - It's a delight - if an uncomfortable one - to see the stars of In Bruges, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, reunited with the director Martin McDonagh, for a darkly comic, nihilistic bromance, set in 1920s Ireland.CUNK ON EARTH - Diane Morgan's social commentator from Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe shows gets another series of her own to give us her take on everyone and everything in history in a show that's oddly as side-splitting as it is educational.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK - Unusually, the biggest box office hit of the year - by far - was loved by the critics too, as Tom Cruise brought charm and nostalgia in equal measure to a has-been hero tale.DERRY GIRLS - Season 3 of Lisa McGee's comically anarchic take on growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles combines teen comedy and nostalgia with a dash of farce and a dose of reality.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE - Dame Emma Thompson delivers one of the finest performances of the year as a widow, who turns to a professional to explore her sexual needs, in a bold, charming, illuminating and funny study of sexuality and morality.CHEATERS - A refreshing twist on the romantic comedy sees an arch - but effective - storyline delivered in bitesize episodes. This quickfire blend of relationship comedy and drama is ideal for the binge watching age.
BELFAST - One of the stand-out films from last year's awards season, Belfast is Sir Kenneth Brannagh's charming and heart-warming tale of a young boy - a young him - coming of age as his Northern Ireland community crumbles around him during the Troubles.THE NEWSREADER -This Australian drama follows a group of ambitious TV journalists through the 1980s, as they jostle for position, while uncovering the big stories of the time. It doesn't always feel authentic, but the off-screen shenanigans keep you involved.
JUST MISSED THE CUT: It's also worth trying to find Robert Eggers' The Northman, which tells the visceral tale of betrayal, loyalty and justice that inspired Shakespeare's Hamlet; Bill Nighy's end-of-life study of what it's all about in Living; and a couple of French New Wave classics from Francois Truffaut returned to the big screen - The 400 Blows and Jules et Jim.JUST MISSED THE CUT: The wickedly funny season 3 of Ricky Gervais' study of bereavement, After Life, delivers empathy to a widower who was previously more of a self-pitying sociopath. Steve Coogan's thought-provoking, post-Me-Too Hollywood satire, Chivalry, morphs into more of a will-they-won't-they dramedy. Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce shine in A Spy Among Friends, an intricate, complex drama that exposes the hazards of mixing spying with friendship.

What was not Worth Seeing in 2022...

...on film ...on TV

ARMAGEDDON TIME - James Gray fails to turn his own childhood into a modern-day 400 Blows, with an obnoxious and entitled protagonist playing truant and turning to petty theft as a protest against his supportive teacher, his loving parents and his doting grandfather - because of the way President Carter's America treated black people, like his one schoolfriend. There's a valid point to be made about white privilege - but this film doesn't make it.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS - The latest Sally Rooney novel to be put on screen has a misleading title; there are very few conversations - with friends or otherwise - not least because the two central characters are so inarticulate that their scenes are largely comprised of whispered grunts and disarming half-smiles. It's never really clear why we'd want to spend 6 hours with a selfish marriage-wrecker and a boring, depressed philanderer anyway.
MORBIUS - A shape-shifting Jared Leto develops a taste for blood after splicing his DNA with a bat's but such as it's about anything at all, this dark, nonsensical and peculiarly dull comic-book adaption about the origins of a Marvel villain is more about survival than destruction in a film that's far more about style than substance.MAMMALS - This darkly comic tale of infidelity does a good job of making you hate both of the central characters, the more you learn about them. The denouement leaves you wondering why you wasted any time investing in these characters. I feel most sorry for Sir Tom Jones, who looks as bemused as we feel during his cameo.
JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION - The prospect of the stars of the original Jurassic Park film returning was hugely enticing, but a film about almost everything except dinosaurs leaves the franchise feeling as extinct as the dinosaurs it supposedly exists to portray. Thankfully, it was billed as the final Jurassic film.THE CONTROL ROOM - An unsuspecting ambulance call-centre worker is drawn into an intriguing web of crime in 2 hours of strong drama, destroyed by a 3rd episode that spins wildly out of control, stretching credulity beyond belief. It's hard to root for someone who keeps making ridiculous decisions.
DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTERVERSE OF MADNESS - More than ever, enjoyment and understanding of this impenetrably complicated comic-book confection relies on having seen previous films and TV shows from the Marvel/Disney+ stable, leaving all but the most dedicated fans having almost no clue what's going on. More mind-numbing than mind-blowing, as Doctor Strange visits the Multiverse of Nonsense, it ventures too far into the realms of horror for the typical superhero audience.SUSPECT - This bold and stylish drama is so slavish to its high-concept format that all logic disappears even before the end of Episode 1. With each episode being essentially a theatrical two-hander in James Nesbitt's attempt to find his daughter's killer, there are some which seem laden with exposition, while others feel stretched to fit the format. The top-notch cast often seem embarrassed to be uttering the cliche-ridden dialogue and what Nesbitt only does with his top lip is perhaps the most suspect thing of all.
DEEP WATER - It's perhaps a bit of a cheat to include Deep Water in this list, since it was bumped straight to streaming just days before its scheduled theatrical release, but since it was made for the cinema, with marquee names and from a Patricia Highsmith novel, you have to wonder what went so wrong. It’s basically a couple of hours of watching two beautiful, selfish, rich people destroying the lives of each other – and everyone around them.RULES OF THE GAME - This tale of office-politics and how bosses deal with the uncovering of a cover-up certainly doesn't follow the standard "rules of the game" here, with all of the plot squeezed into a final episode that seems to come from a different show to the previous three. A complicated structure is more frustrating than intriguing, with a clunky script, leaden acting and a cast of almost entirely unpleasant, box-ticking characters.
JUST MISSED THE CUT: Three of Hollywood's most enduring stars disappointed this year, with Brad Pitt's adaptation of Japanese crime novel Bullet Train feeling like a retread of an early Matthew Vaughn or Quentin Tarantino film, while George Clooney and Julia Roberts faced off against each other in a corny and predictable romantic comedy, Ticket To Paradise, in which an estranged couple try to stop their daughter marrying a seaweed farmer in beautiful Bali. The literary adaptation Where The Crawdads Sing left audiences feeling a little cheated with a denouement that renders the bulk of the film redundant.JUST MISSED THE CUT: Marriage was certainly a marmite show - some loved it, some hated it - and those who loved it just said those who hated it didn't get it. I'm reminded of a Katherine Ryan joke where she criticises people who run marathons to raise awareness of cancer. "I'm aware of cancer," she remarks. Similarly, I'm aware that long-term relationships can feel a little banal at times but showing that doesn't make for compelling TV. One person's "this feels real" is another's "this is boring." And if it's trying to show us how mundane everyday life is, why have we got one family experiencing everything from redundancy and workplace bullying to infant death, adoption and coercive control?