As you catch up with the films featured in our best-of-2022 coverage, it’s time we turn our sights to January. While the first month of the year usually isn’t a treasure trove, there are plenty of worthwhile offerings if one digs deep enough. Featuring some 2022 awards qualifiers finally getting a proper release, a few genre delights, and more, check out our recommendations below.

11. When You Finish Saving the World (Jesse Eisenberg; Jan. 27)

In capturing tangled family dynamics, one wouldn’t be surprised if Eisenberg looked towards The Squid and the Whale, another one of his Sundance selections (albeit from some two decades ago), for inspiration. While there’s a similar lived-in feel courtesy Benjamin Loeb’s warm 16mm cinematography and a keen sense for awkward, fraught drama––including throwing around profanities at the family table––the script isn’t as polished or piercing as Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama. With depictions of Gen Z’s priority for social and political advocacy (despite a lack of genuine experience in the real world) to the detached older generation’s posturing altruism, Eisenberg uses these ideas more as bumper stickers than creating a meaningful dialogue. Continue reading my review.

10. Close (Lukas Dhont; Jan. 20)

Coming from 31-year-old Belgian director, Lukas Dhont’s Oscar-contending sophomore feature Close follows two friends as a tragedy strikes. While that event turns it into a manipulative corner from which it never truly escapes, Dhont’s filmmaking is impressive throughout, retaining an intimacy that elevates the afterschool special-style script. David Katz said in his review, “Lukas Dhont’s Close, following up Girl from 2017, admirably attempts to delve into a friendship like this, with sensitivity and a rare gift of observation. Where it falters is an attempt to stir and batter the viewer with melodramatic plot turns and operatic emotion.”

9. Human Position (Anders Emblem; Jan. 30)

Recently featured on our best undistributed films of 2022 list, Anders Emblem’s Rotterdam premiere A Human Position will now get a release at the end of the month courtesy MUBI. C.J. Prince said the film, “in which young journalist’s investigation of a news story from her quiet, seaside village sparks a personal crisis, is so quiet and unassuming it’s no surprise that it slipped under most people’s radars. It’s still a shame, though: its paradoxical nature (ultra-precise in its direction yet comforting to watch, dealing with heavy political and personal subject matter but somehow always light on its feet) makes for beguiling experience that establishes Emblem as an exciting new filmmaker.”

8. Alice, Darling (Mary Nighy; Jan. 20)

One highlight of last year’s TIFF was Mary Nighy’s thriller Alice, Darling, which gives Anna Kendrick quite a showcase. As Jared Mobarak said in his review, “None of it truly works without Kendrick delivering one of the best performances of her career. Mosaku and Horn are great with pointed glances and justified frustrations transforming into rage for a powerful and jarring final effort to (hopefully) break the cycle once and for all, but even they can only go as far as she takes them. The role of Alice is very much internal and, as such, very reliant upon putting her thoughts onscreen. That we can also see those thoughts in our own minds simply through Kendrick’s thousand-yard stares, moments of lashing out, and visibly draining anxiety is a testament to her commitment to the character and the script’s nuanced complexity to allow her to say so much without saying anything.”

7. Skinamarink (Kyle Edward Ball; Jan. 13)

If you’ve been on the Internet these last few weeks you’ve certainly heard of the horror thriller Skinamarink. Made for around just $15,000, Kyle Edward Ball’s nocturnal creeper follows a pair of children who wake up only to find their father has disappeared and they are trapped in their home. While on its festival run this year, the film ended up leaking and clips started going viral across the web, but thankfully it’s now getting a proper theatrical release this month courtesy IFC Midnight and Shudder. While there’s not much there there plot-wise, it does indeed deliver quite a chilling atmosphere, the variety that will haunt your nightmares long after the credits roll. Even if it doesn’t live up to its viral hype, there’s also something delightfully subversive about a horror film so experimental-leaning getting a wide release off the bat.

6. Infinity Pool (Brandon Cronenberg; Jan. 27)

The Cronenberg family has had quite a year. As David Cronenberg finally returned to feature filmmaking with the stellar Crimes of the Future, his daughter Caitlin Cronenberg recently wrapped her directorial debut Humane, and now the Sundance Film Festival will hold the world premiere of Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor follow-up Infinity Pool. As with his father’s film last summer, NEON will drop it in theaters soon after a festival debut. Led by Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth, the film follows a couple’s vacation trip as it turns into a nightmarish descent into hell.

5. Geographies of Solitude (Jacquelyn Mills; Jan. 25)

One of our favorites on the festival circuit last year, the Berlinale premiere Geographies of Solitude will come to theaters this month, kicking off at Anthology Film Archives. Jared Mobrarak said in his review, “Considering the Wikipedia page for Sable Island states a population of zero (minus the six-to-twenty-five rotating personnel team from the Meteorological Service of Canada), the text labeling Zoe Lucas as a “full-time inhabitant” at the end of Jacquelyn Mills’ Geographies of Solitude seems to confirm what we presume throughout its duration: this twenty-five-mile-long and one-mile-wide crescent sand dune off the coast of Nova Scotia is a world of one. It’s been that way for forty years, ever since Lucas returned following a brief stint in the 70s as a volunteer cook/burgeoning environmentalist. That time has seen her compiling detailed spreadsheets on topics like the famed Sable Horse population, invertebrate species, seal/bird migrations, and plastic waste. As Lucas says, you can’t solve a problem without first collecting the data.”

4. Alcarràs (Carla Simón; Jan. 6)

It’s not often the year in cinema kicks off with one of the most-acclaimed films of recent memory, but such is the case in 2023. Carla Simón impressed with her lovely debut Summer 1993 a few years back and now she returns with Alcarràs, winner of the Berlinale Golden Bear and Spain’s Oscar entry. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “This is the definition of a good ensemble. Performances are nuanced across the board and the characters, in spite of limited screen time, are well rounded; each would be redundant outside the whole. Simón is a wonderfully economical filmmaker in this sense, with a keen ability to express whole swaths of time and personal history in small, seemingly inconsequential moments. We only needed to see the other parents’ reaction when Frida grazed her knee in Summer 1993 to know exactly the kind of awful fate the girl’s mother had met; Simón brings that skill to bear again in Alcarràs, using similarly succinct touches to express her characters’ world-views and inner lives.”

3. Shin Ultraman (Shinji Higuchi; Jan. 11 and 12 only)

While those stateside were served up the latest product from the Marvel assembly line as their sole blockbuster offering to kick off last summer, Japan was treated with Shin Ultraman, a new film directed by Shin Godzilla VFX lead and Evangelion co-writer Shinji Higuchi, and written and produced by Hideaki Anno. A reimagination of the Japanese series Ultraman, first originating back in the 1960s, this 2022 iteration stars Takumi Saitoh, Masami Nagasawa, and Drive My Car lead Hidetoshi Nishijima. Now finally arriving in the U.S. as part of a two-night-only nationwide special event, hopefully it will find wider distribution soon.

2. Saint Omer (Alice Diop; Jan. 13)

One of the finest films of 2022 is the narrative debut of documentarian Alice Diop, Saint Omer. Selected as France’s Oscar entry, the multiple Venice award-winner had a qualifying run last month and will now arrive in theaters next week. As Jake Kring-Schreifels said in his NYFF review, “Saint Omer isn’t a movie concerned specifically with a verdict. It asks you to listen, to observe and consider a tragedy and its ripples within a community. Near the end of the trial Coly’s barrister makes an impassioned closing statement appealing to the undying biological connection a mother shares with her child, through life and death. It’s not meant to reframe the crime that’s been committed; instead it asks everyone to examine and face down the monsters and madness that lurk within themselves. For Rama it’s a chance to forgive, reconnect, and find the courage to accept all of motherhood’s uncertainties.”

1. One Fine Morning (Mia Hansen-Løve; Jan. 27)

Léa Seydoux was recently crowned the best actor of 2022 by The Film Stage, courtesy three stellar performances, and her finest work can be seen this month in Mia Hansen-Løve’s tender drama One Fine Morning. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Shot in gorgeous natural light by Denis Lenoir (the cinematographer on all but one of her films since Eden), and backed by a soundtrack of typically esoteric needle drops, the director delivers her finest in years by doing what she’s always done best: a humanistic story of when to love and when to let go.”

Honorable Mentions

  • Beautiful Beings (Jan. 13)
  • Jethica (Jan. 13)
  • Plane (Jan. 13)
  • Kids vs. Aliens (Jan. 20)
  • Missing (Jan. 20)

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