Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’ joins Israeli and international gems

Assessing the best movies of 2022

 ‘THE FABELMANS’ (photo credit: United Kingdom Films)
‘THE FABELMANS’
(photo credit: United Kingdom Films)

In 2022, audiences began to return to movie theaters after the worst of the COVID-19 crisis seemed to have passed. But people tended to come back, understandably, for the blockbusters that don’t play nearly as well on the small screen, while many more interesting movies didn’t find an audience and disappeared quickly from theaters.

Four of the movies on this list are Israeli, and 2022 was a good year for Israeli cinema as several films that had been shelved due to the pandemic finally got released. Another five are from Europe and Asia, regions which produce a large percentage of the most intriguing movies. Unfortunately, most of these are no longer playing in theaters. Let’s hope that at least some of these movies get a second life on streaming services.

The movies are ranked because that is a convention of Year-End lists, but they are all good in different ways that cannot be accurately reflected in a ranked list.

What are the best movies of 2022?

1. The Fabelmans – It’s no surprise that Steven Spielberg’s heavily autobiographical movie, a coming-of-age story about how becoming a moviemaker saved his life, and the most personal film he has ever made, tops this list. Michelle Williams may well win an Oscar for her role as the mother, but the two actors playing the lead at different ages, Gabriel LaBelle and Mateo Zoryan, were no less impressive. May it bring comfort to young film geeks everywhere.

2. Here We Are – This Israeli film would have been at Cannes in 2020 if there had been no pandemic. Nir Bergman directed an extraordinary script by Dana Idisis, about a young adult with autism and his father on a desperate road trip. The lead performances by Noam Imber and Shai Avivi, which won Ophir Awards, felt true to life. I have a personal connection to autism and I have never seen it portrayed so accurately and beautifully, but this moving film will work whether or not you have a particular interest in the subject.

 'HERE WE ARE' (credit: Spiro Films and Lev Cinemas/Shai Goldman) 'HERE WE ARE' (credit: Spiro Films and Lev Cinemas/Shai Goldman)

3. Compartment Number 6 – Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s off-beat movie about an odd couple’s train trip through Russia was a ride well worth taking.

4. The Worst Person in the World – Joachim Trier’s ironically named story of a young woman in Oslo who can’t seem to figure out her life was a lot of fun, due in part to Renate Reinsve’s performance in the lead.

5. Let It Be Morning – Eran Kolirin’s look at an Arab software developer who returns to his home village for a wedding and gets trapped there was a compelling look at a man whose life is in free fall, set against the backdrop of conflicts and issues in the Arab sector. The three lead actors, Adam Bakri, Jena Suleiman and Ehab Salami led a wonderful ensemble cast that included Salim Daw and Samer Bisharat. The movie swept the major Ophir Award categories, winning nine. 

6. Golden Voices – A touching slice-of-life Israeli film about a long-married Russian couple (Mariya Belkina and Vladimir Friedman) who are legendary movie dubbing artists, and struggle to find their place in 90s Tel Aviv. Screenwriters Evgeny Ruman and Ziv Berkovich said they based the characters on friends of their parents.

7. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom – This beautiful film, an unexpected Oscar nominee, looks at a teacher in a remote Bhutanese village and examines issues of modernity versus tradition and individuality versus community in a gently moving style. It was directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji, a gifted storyteller who is likely at the beginning of an interesting career.

8. Cinema Sabaya – Orit Fouks Rotem’s debut feature won this year’s Ophir Award and is a quasi-documentary look at a video workshop for female Jewish and Arab municipal workers in a small city. The ensemble acting is beautiful and as their stories unfold gradually, you come to see each woman differently from the way you thought of her at the beginning.

9. Flee – Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary tells the story of an Afghan migrant’s journey to Denmark. It’s one man’s particular story, but it reflects the lives of so many immigrants, from all eras and cultures.

10.   Triangle of Sadness – Ruben Ostland’s over-the-top movie took the top prize at Cannes this year and looks at what happens to a yachtful of billionaires, gorgeous young social-media influencers and the staff that serves them after a shipwreck upends the social order. It’s not exactly subtle, but it is often very funny.