Following our recap of the best films from 2022’s first half, it’s time to set our sights on the latter days. This July brings only one studio film worth paying attention to, but on the indie and foreign side we have an eclectic mix of celebrated auteurs and new voices. See my top picks for what to watch this month below.

11. Ali & Ava (Clio Barnard; July 29)

Following The ArborThe Selfish Giant, and Dark River, British director Clio Barnard’s latest is once again set in Bradford and this time focuses on a love story. The Cannes and TIFF selection Ali & Ava follows Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook, who play a lonely pair that find unexpected affectation for one another. As Jared Mobarak said in his review, “Romance is thus born when least expected. Writer-director Clio Barnard splits focus as they each wallow in their past, get excited about their present, and work through the awkwardness of contemplating dating post-40. Their rapport is sweet, in large part from Ali’s inability to slow down or stop acting with the enthusiasm of someone half his age jumping around and singing at the top of his lungs and Ava’s heart of gold where it comes to her children (biological and educational alike). For all those differences stated above, though, their union can never be something that simply manifests overnight without myriad complications. Despite Ali & Ava proving a heartwarmingly funny and rich love story, its strength truly lies in the characters’ melancholic confrontation with their underlying pain.”

10. Moon, 66 Questions (Jacqueline Lentzou; July 8)

A selection at Berlinale and New Directors/New Films, Jacqueline Lentzou’s acclaimed Greek drama Moon, 66 Questions is now arriving this month. David Katz said in his ND/NF review, “The film is at once a familiar tale of parent-child estrangement and rapprochement, but also a formal experiment in finding a fresher cinematic language to probe these sensitive issues. Like Jane Schoenbrun’s internet odyssey We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, it seems unusually attuned to the odd relationship between technology and loneliness, and the millennial generation’s compulsive need to self-document and live online. Linked to this is the appeal of the irrational: horror folk-myths for Schoenbrun, whilst Lentzou and her protagonist Artemis are drawn to occult energies to soothe real-life family trauma.”

9. Good Madam (Jenna Bass; July 13)

A favorite at last year’s TIFF, Jenna Cato Bass’ South African psychological horror feature Good Madam is now set for a release on Shudder this month. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “Family and its many definitions are at the heart of Jenna Cato Bass’ Mlungu Wam [Good Madam], co-created with Babalwa Baartman and scripted alongside a laundry list of cast members to make me believe most of the dialogue was improvised. Tsidi considers her grandmother her mother because Mavis wasn’t there. She also delivers a mean-spirited jab where it concerns her half-brother Stuart (Sanda Shandu) by saying his “real” mother is Diane, since he was allowed to be raised in that house with her sons as brothers. Mavis was therefore stripped of maternal titles in Tsidi’s mind by marrying her work, and the dark history of Apartheid in South Africa has always fostered resentment towards Diane for that fact. Mavis owes nothing, nor is she a slave.”

8. Resurrection (Andrew Semans; July 29)

One of the year’s most unsettling viewing experiences is Andrew Semans’ psychological thriller Resurrection. Led by Rebecca Hall, once again proving her horror chops, and Tim Roth, it follows a woman’s carefully constructed life that becomes upended when an unwelcome shadow from her past returns, forcing her to confront the monster she’s evaded for two decades. As I said in my review, “Not all is well from the opening scenes of Andrew Semans’ Resurrection, based on his own Black List-charting script, which begins as a chilly, slick workplace and mother-daughter drama before exploding into a stomach-churning psychological thriller. Though its preposterous narrative ends up getting into rather silly territory that obfuscates its initial, more pertinent thematic ideas, the film is another stellar showcase for the immense talent of Rebecca Hall. One also can’t entirely fault the director for following through and taking his rather illogically extreme set-up to its most logically absurd conclusion.”

7. This Much I Know to Be True (Andrew Dominik; July 8)

If you missed your recent one-night-only chance to theatrically experience Andrew Dominik’s reunion with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, take heed: MUBI will release This Much I Know To Be True, which captures performances from their past two studio albums, Ghosteen and Carnage, this week. Filmed in spring 2021 ahead of their UK tour, we see the two, accompanied by singers and string quartet, as they nurture each song into existence. The film features a special appearance by close friend and long-term collaborator, Marianne Faithfull. Shot in color by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, it marks a follow-up to One More Time with Feeling, which will also be available on MUBI starting next month.

6. Fire of Love (Sara Dosa; July 6)

One of the most acclaimed films to premiere at Sundance earlier this year is Sara Dosa’s Fire of Love, which finds Miranda July narrating the life story of French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft and their pursuit to discover everything they could know about volcanoes. I said in my Sundance review, “In a bond forged over mutual fascination (or obsession) with the mysteries of volcanoes, Katia and Maurice Krafft dedicated their lives to discovering everything they could about these natural phenomena. Forces of both awe-inspiring wonder and tragic disaster, Sara Dosa’s archival documentary Fire of Love gracefully captures this extreme dichotomy while also getting to the heart of what drove this couple to abandon a routine, domesticated lifestyle and literally sacrifice their lives in the mission to save others. In telling their devotion to one of the natural world’s most dangerous forces, Dosa crafts a documentary that would make Herzog proud—and an ideal double feature with Into the Inferno, his collaboration with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, which also features the Kraffts.”

5. A Love Song (Max Walker-Silverman; July 29)

A major highlight of Sundance and Berlinale earlier this year, A Love Song is a quaint drama of raw emotion. Dan Mecca said in his review, “There are great faces, and then there is Dale Dickey’s face. Simply put, it is in a league of its own. The sole contender may be Wes Studi’s. A Love Song, written and directed by Max Walker-Silverman, has both. Lovely, short, spare, and bittersweet, this feature debut is living proof that less is sometimes more. Often the camera lingers in close-up on either performer’s beautiful mug, and it’s never long enough. We see the world in their cheeks and their eyes. We see their regrets, their fond memories, and their nervous anticipation of what’s next.”

4. Sharp Stick (Lena Dunham; July 29)

Marking her first feature since Tiny Furniture (now more than a decade old), Lena Dunham’s Sharp Stick debuted at Sundance to an expectedly divisive response. A nakedly honest, humorously messy, and daring look at a young caregiver who then embarks on an affair with her married employer, it pulls no punches. As Michael Frank said in his review, “Dunham pulls out committed performances across the film, each performer finding laughs in sometimes meaningless dialogue; Froseth is strong, though restricted by the one-lane nature of Sarah Jo. This cast put together a special blend of comedic abilities, popping up for small scenes with memorable moments, much more notable than our lead’s time alone on screen. Bernthal continues his incredible run, often the best part about bad movies and never the worst part of good movies. His work in Sharp Stick falls somewhere in the middle. “

3. Nope (Jordan Peele; July 22)

Amongst the very few original tentpoles coming from Hollywood this year is Jordan Peele’s latest. Following the one-two punch of Get Out and Us is Nope, starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Steven Yeun. While we’re sure many surprises still await, the recent final trailer revealed our main characters looking to capture glimpses of alien ships on video to get “rich and famous for life.” Things get more complicated from there, but it seems the key to survival is not looking at the aliens if you don’t want to get abducted––and we see the aliens seem to have snatched much of the nearby population.

2. Murina (Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic; July 8)

One of the great directorial debuts this year, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic’s Murina is a gripping coming-of-age tale stunningly lensed by Hélène Louvart with her expert eye for texture and sensuality. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “We often forget that exotic locales aren’t an escape for those living here. While co-eds dock ashore for sun, sex, and fun, families merely wake up early to go spearfishing so they have dinner that night. The psychological toll of constantly looking out your window at happy faces while dealing with the futility of teenage living under a domineering father with few (if any) opportunities to leave must be daunting. So when Julija (Gracija Filipovic) exits the water to see her father’s (Leon Lucev’s Ante) rich friend from a past life (Cliff Curtis’ Javi) has arrived, she wonders about the possibilities he brings. Ante and her mother (Danica Curcic’s Nela) hope to sell him land. Julija hopes he’ll save her.”

1. Both Sides of the Blade (Claire Denis; July 8)

Claire Denis is back with two new features this year, the first of which comes to theaters this week. Both Sides of the Blade—which premiered at Berlinale earlier this year, where Denis deservedly won Best Director—is a stunning romantic drama following Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon as a couple whose relationship is disrupted when an old flame (Grégoire Colin) returns. As Rory O’Connor said in his review, “In Both Sides of the Blade a romance breaks down and threatens to break up in a stylish apartment overlooking the sweet Parisian skyline. The director is of course Claire Denis, a filmmaker whose last work began in a place that looked like Eden and ended in a spaceship plummeting toward no less than a black hole. A baroque melodrama that might just maybe be a trolling farce, Both Sides of the Blade‘s concerns are of a more earthbound variety—though if the insistent strings of Tindersticks’ score are something to go by, they are of no less importance. (Yeah right.)”

Honorable Mentions

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