Louisa’s 10 Best Movies of 2022

10. “Everything Everywhere All At Once”

Directing duo Daniels (Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan) have a signature style and vision when it comes to making art, and their latest project stays true to their offbeat creativity. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” has been described as “an assault on the senses,” and that’s the most accurate statement I have ever heard. This film embraces chaos and feels like a mash-up of “The Matrix,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and “Tree of Life.” It defies categorization. For those of you who thought “‘Swiss Army Man’ was just too mainstream for me,” hold on to your seat for this one.

Chinese immigrant Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) is just trying to do her taxes. She’s being pulled in so many different directions that she’s unable to focus on any of her tasks at hand. When Evelyn discovers that she’s needed to save the world, she travels to other connected universes, exploring the many lives she could have led.

It’s better to leave the plot summary at that. The less you know, the more you’ll love about the movie. I’m not even sure how to write a thorough synopsis of this one because it’s so wild and unique. There’s a eclectic anarchy to this frantic, high-energy film, and it’s exhausting — but in a good way.

The script is absolutely bonkers, but it makes sense. I give great respect to Daniels for creating clear multiverse rules within their story as well as managing to keep their established rules consistent throughout. That’s not an easy feat, especially in a film with such a complex narrative.

I’m not sure how Daniels pulled it off, but all of this comes together in a cohesive, if totally bizarro, film. The technical aspects are terrific, including the stellar editing and fight choreography, as well as the inventive costuming and makeup.

Of course, the real star here is Yeoh. It’s an atypical part for a more mature actor, especially a 59 year old Asian woman, and she turns in a phenomenal performance in a role that asks a lot from her. Yeoh shows off a huge range where she handles enormous demands, effortlessly. Her comedic timing reaches perfection, and she dances between action stunts and drama with ease. The film is wonderfully cast as a whole, with solid supporting turns from Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, and James Hong.

I could see this film becoming a cult classic, and I would guess that there’s a benefit to watching this stoned out of your mind. It’s outrageous and bizarre, sometimes to a fault. The in-your-face eccentricity and the film’s 139 minute runtime does wear thin in spots, which requires a lot of stamina from the audience. It’s tough to be jolted from one tone to the next as the story shifts from a family drama to an offbeat comedy to an existential nightmare to a dreamlike fantasy to a martial arts action thriller at what feels like the snap of two fingers. There’s a total evolution that occurs, ending with an unexpected heart and sincerity underneath the chaos.

While “Everything Everywhere All at Once” may be too wacky and weird for some, you can’t say that the film doesn’t have a fully realized vision and story. It’s frenzied and eccentric and brimming with chaos, and I was enchanted by this tale of love, the multiverse, and bagels.

9. “Montana Story ”

“Montana Story” is a western where the sweeping scenery and shots of the vast, dusty landscape aren’t the star, but the family drama is. The visuals are absolutely stunning, but it’s the story that affected me on a deep level. This understated character study is painful, touching, and emotionally powerful, from its restrained beginning to its most forceful final blow.

Cal (Owen Teague) has returned home to tend to his dying father, who has fallen into a coma. There’s a no-nonsense air about the young man, as he realizes his dad is never going to wake up again. The family is in a massive amount of debt, and it all rests on Cal’s shoulders to take care of things like selling his late mother’s car and devising an affordable plan to get rid of the family’s 25 year old horse, Mr. T.

When estranged older sister Erin (Haley Lu Richardson) arrives from the East coast, she’s unhappy with the path Cal has chosen for Mr. T. She decides that she wants to personally drive the horse back to upstate New York to live near her. Over the course of a few days, cracks begin to form as the siblings confront a bitter family history that’s filled with agonizing trauma.

The screenplay (by Mike Spreter and co-directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel) is exceptional, filled with raw authenticity and insight. It’s poignant and heartbreaking, with strong characters and a profound understanding of the human condition.

Erin left home at 18 and never came back, completely cutting herself off from everyone, including her younger brother. She and Cal are strangers as adults, and watching them navigate their new reality and relationship isn’t easy. The pain lies in what’s left unsaid, and their reunion is a way for the two to finally face their childhood wounds and actually begin to see and relate to each other on a deeper level.

Richardson and Teague’s performances are restrained in a way that makes them feel so painful, yet also powerful. The cast (including Gilbert Owuor, Eugene Brave Rock, Asivak Koostachin, and Kimberly Guerrero) is terrific across the board.

The pacing is relaxed, yet the film never feels slow. Characters and their back stories are introduced gradually, with only tiny snippets revealed at a time. As the pieces start to fall into place, the emotional volcano filled with dark family secrets threatens to erupt. When it finally does, it’s devastating.

Things are not all dark, as the film manages to end on a positive note that gives a sense of hope. It’s a film that takes a lot out of the viewer, but the emotional investment is worth it.

“Montana Story” is a tale about damaged people, broken relationships, destructive trauma, and the ability to restore the capacity to love by learning what home really means.

8. “Good Night Oppy”

I can’t remember the last time I was so emotionally invested in a movie, especially a documentary, than I was with “Good Night Oppy,” director Ryan White’s inspirational and entertaining tale of NASA’s Opportunity rover. In the summer of 2003, the space agency launched twin robots on a journey to Mars to search for evidence of life. This film tells the true story of “Oppy,” her sister Spirit, and their incredible adventure on another planet.

It’s an irresistible American success story of teamwork, dedication, brainpower, and resolve. After carefully planning and designing the rovers, NASA sent the twins to the Red Planet on a groundbreaking mission — with a life expectancy of only 90 days. With a stroke of luck, Oppy ended up surviving for 15 years, sending back incredible data and photographs that changed the shape of astronomy and history. Through photo-real visual effects and animation by Industrial Light & Magic, the film captures the exploration with eye-popping wonder. And by talking with the scientists, engineers, operators, and the amazing team of people behind the scenes, White beautifully expresses the emotional bond that was formed between Oppy and her humans back on Earth.

It’s incredible how easy it is to get emotionally invested in Oppy’s mission. From the original blueprint to the rover’s very first steps, I found myself cheering along with mission control when things were going well, and sharing in their disappointments when they faced major obstacles. The story is fascinating and almost unbelievable, as Oppy and Spirit mange to survive disaster after disaster, from getting stuck in sand to weathering months-long solar and dust storms. I was on the edge of my seat as I waited to see the fate of these rovers, watching and waiting and holding my breath along with the folks back at NASA.

By combining the true stories of the folks that lived them with CGI scenes that play like an action film, White makes this story of robotic geologists fun. It’s an engaging and sentimental documentary, and one that surprisingly runs the gamut of emotions. It doesn’t hurt that Oppy and Spirit have an adorable, WALL-E like quality and appearance, either. The two rovers start to feel human, especially when current and former employees at NASA refer to Oppy’s age-related conditions after years on Mars. She begins to develop “arthritis” in her “arms,” her vision becomes blurry, and she begins to have problems with memory and forgetfulness. It’s only a matter of time before she powers down and doesn’t wake up, and it’s a gut punch when that day finally arrives.

“Good Night Oppy” is an exemplary documentary that had this astronomy nerd smiling from ear to ear. It’s a story about curiosity, exploration discovery, the ingenuity of humans, and their love for the little rover that could.

7. “The Whale”

When thinking about “The Whale,” I feel it’s important to start at the end rather than the beginning because the melodramatic finale almost ruins everything that’s good about the film. The finale is grossly manipulative, corny, excessive, and if what came before wasn’t so great, it would diminish director Darren Aronofsky’s entire project. Thanks to a heartbreaking script (from writer Samuel D. Hunter) and a once-in-a-lifetime lead performance from Brendan Fraser, it takes little effort to overlook the film’s more negative aspects.

Based on Hunter’s 2012 play of the same name, the psychological drama tells the story of Charlie (Fraser), a reclusive English professor who is living with severe obesity. Weighing over 600 pounds and unable to leave his home, Charlie spends his days alone in his small, dingy apartment with intermittent visits from his friend and nurse Liz (Hong Chau), who is his only companion. It’s been an interesting week for the man, as he’s had two additional unexpected visitors: a religious missionary (Ty Simpkins) who is compelled to continue his visits, and Charlie’s estranged and hostile teenager daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink). With his health in grave decline (he repeatedly refuses to seek care at a hospital), Charlie decides to do everything in his power to gain one last chance at redemption in his daughter’s eyes, and every ounce of time he has left is spent reconnecting with her.

The film takes place in a confined space, and the lead character spends the majority of his time sitting on a sofa. This cramped setting feels suffocating, which in turn conveys the feelings that Charlie is also experiencing. This is a story about empathy, and it’s admittedly challenging at first glance to feel a ton of compassion for Charlie no matter how accepting you may think you are or claim to be. His outward appearance is shocking and repellant, and it’s part of human nature to look at him as if he were a freak show attraction. What’s interesting about the film is that it digs deeper beneath Charlie’s obesity and lets you into his heart. I was surprised to find by the end of the story just how much I had grown to care so deeply for him.

Folks who have seen the film and are crying that it is “fat shaming” are missing the point. This isn’t a story about humiliation or degradation, it’s a film about actually seeing the person inside a repulsive exterior and giving them humanity. This is not a project that mocks obesity, as has so often (and sadly) been the case with many Hollywood films. This is a story with substantial and challenging themes about depression, mental illness, and addiction. In this case, Charlie has spent years self-medicating his despair and unhappiness with food, and is now suffering from an eating disorder that has raged out of control.

None of this would be so emotionally touching if not for Fraser’s lead performance. He is impressive and outstanding as Charlie, and it’s one of the greatest cinematic performances in years (and definitely of the actor’s career). It’s not the spectacle of the makeup or fat suit that makes him memorable: it’s how Fraser thoroughly embodies Charlie with a deep, soulful pain in his eyes. His performance absolutely ripped my heart right out of my chest to the point where I found it difficult to breathe. He’s that good.

While there’s been so much talk about Fraser, Chau’s performance is equally heartbreaking. Through her facial expressions and body language, you can see and feel the pain Charlie is causing Liz. Everyone is simply waiting for the man to die, and you’re right there by Liz’s side as she cares for her best friend in a final act of selfless affection. It’s an agonizing thing to watch and experience, and Chau conveys her torment in an understated, poignant way.

If it sounds like this is a tough film to watch, I will assure you that it is. You won’t leave the theater floating on air when it’s over. This is an adult drama that will leave you in tears with its story of resentment, vulnerability, regret, and humanity. That’s also why “The Whale” is one of the very best films of the year.

6. “Clerks III”

Coming to terms with one’s own mortality and life’s legacy is at the heart of “Clerks III,” a film that is the product of a kinder, gentler Kevin Smith. This is a project that comes from a filmmaker and writer who is older and wiser, one who is unafraid to share the deeply personal aspects of his soul. It’s the kind of movie that’s meaningful and touching. It’s the kind of movie that will make a grown man cry.

Drawing on inspiration from his real-life brush with death in early 2018, Smith incorporates his own heart attack into the storyline. Here he writes what he knows, and the result is effective. From his days growing up in New Jersey and working at a convenience store and video shop, Smith brings in a hefty dose of authentic nostalgia to this sequel, which tells the semi-autobiographical story of his writing and directing his 1994 breakthrough movie, “Clerks.”

After suffering a massive heart attack, convenience store clerk (and now co-owner) Randal (Jeff Anderson) enlists his longtime co-worker Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and misfit friends Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) to help him make a movie about their lives at the Quick Stop after getting inspiration from his mid-life health crisis. Using real-life customers and other situations they’ve personally witnessed over the last few decades, the gang get a camera and start recording. Along the way, they reminisce about the past, worry about the future, and learn to accept their choices and regrets in life.

Friendship and love forms the essence of the film, which is at its best when it revels in feel-good nostalgia that fans will particularly enjoy. Ghosts of the past are confronted with a heartfelt sincerity and some really insightful writing here, which may surprise Smith’s harshest critics. Of course, there are a handful of the usual juvenile poop and weed jokes, but this is a film that Smith can and should be proud of.

There’s something different and special about this sentimental, emotional movie that explores making the most of the time you have left. It’s a funny and poignant portrait of a decades-old friendship that’s grown as audiences watched, and it especially packs a punch when we all realize not only how much Randal and Dante needed each other, but how much we did, too.

As a writer and filmmaker, it’s about damn time that Kevin Smith reached the top of his game. With “Clerks III,” I assure you, he has.

5. “Nope”

You could write multiple, lengthy essays on the themes in “Nope,” a film that certainly will be analyzed and discussed by students and fans for many years to come.

You could also kick back, grab some popcorn, and become immersed in a world of spectacle, enjoying the cinematic ride at face value.

That’s what’s so interesting and ambitious about writer / director Jordan Peele‘s third big screen project: it’s a film with incredible thematic depth that’s presented in summer blockbuster fashion. It’s a film that will appeal to those who just want to relax and escape for a couple of hours, as well as those analytical-minded audience members who are seeking something with a deeper meaning.

OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) run a California horse ranch with their father (Keith David). The family has supplied trained horses to Hollywood projects for decades. After their father dies in a sudden and bizarre tragedy, the siblings discover something sinister in the skies above their property. With the help of a conspiracy theorist tech clerk (Brandon Perea) and a grizzled cinematographer (Michael Wincott), the group sets out to capture the otherworldly phenomenon on film, hoping to claim their share of fame and fortune. The owner of an adjacent Western theme park (Steven Yeun) is also trying to profit off the strange happenings.

On the surface, it’s a great premise that reads like a simple and straightforward throwback to alien invasion movies of the 1950s. It’s an homage to the sci-fi classics from Steven Spielberg, too, but with a richly-layered depth that’s thought-provoking and impressive. Provocative themes that deal with exploitation, commercialism, childhood trauma, racism, society’s obsession with media spectacle, and profiteering off tragedy are ample, offered up to viewers if they care to engage. That’s what makes this film one with great storytelling: it’s accessible in a way that entertains, while making weighty statements to prove a point.

Peele sometimes sacrifices story for social commentary, especially when he can’t quite find the common thread to tie everything together in the film’s third act. This is where the film suffers a frustrating setback, from the primitive special effects to a drawn-out science fiction action sequence that somehow manages to feel out of place. It’s a small criticism to be sure, as the rest of the film is excellent.

Peele knows how to direct his actors, and he draws out stellar performances from his entire cast. Palmer and Kaluuya have a casual, believable rapport that left me wanting more. Peele also has a flair for genre filmmaking, with an enviable knack for timing. He shows and tells you just enough to build a strong sense of mystery and suspense. The storytelling is slow but intense and with the exception of the finale, the theming doesn’t feel like it’s being shoved in your face.

“Nope” may turn out to be divisive among critics and moviegoers, but there’s so much at play here that I can’t wait to revisit it for a second viewing. I’ve not been a fan of Peele’s previous films, but this one, I like. A lot.

4. “Elvis”

Sometimes when you see a film, you just know that it’s something very, very special. It took about ten minutes for me to become absolutely enamored with “Elvis,” director Baz Luhrmann‘s epic biopic. This flamboyant, dazzling, cinematic spectacle is an unforgettable film about the beloved cultural icon and American music legend.

With a story that spans three decades, the film chronicles the life of legendary entertainer Elvis Presley (Austin Butler), from his early days as a young boy attending tent revivals in Mississippi to his final days as an overworked and exhausted performer in Las Vegas. Presley’s manipulative manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), serves as the narrator, assuring the audience early on that he’s not “the villain of this here story.” Of course, that’s left up to you to decide, but anyone who knows the smallest tidbit of the history between the two men will remember that Parker was a degenerate gambler who used, abused, and fleeced Elvis for years, and that their complicated relationship caused a great deal of turmoil.

This film is a massive undertaking, as 42 years of a celebrity’s life is told in less than 3 hours. Major parts of Presley’s story are abbreviated out of necessity (Elvis’ film career and his popular Aloha From Hawaii concert are only briefly mentioned, for example), but the events Luhrmann chooses to focus on really hit home with his narrative. There’s a great deal of content about his ’68 comeback special, and a large chunk of the film is devoted to the time Elvis spent in Las Vegas. It makes sense that this story would give more time to his later years, because not only does the relationship with Parker play a large role, that’s the Elvis with whom so many are familiar.

The film is well cast, but the big elephant in the room is the dreadful performance by Hanks. Wearing a fat suit, prosthetic nose, and adopting an atrocious accent that is the equivalent of mixing the voice of Colonel Sanders with nails on a chalkboard, the actor is so distracting that he ruins almost every scene he’s in. He creates one of the most annoying, if not one of the worst, characters ever put on screen. It’s difficult to listen to him and a struggle to watch. Granted, Parker isn’t an easy person to love, but Hanks manages to make him even worse. His performance is a bad caricature, but Butler more than makes up for it. He becomes Elvis so thoroughly that it’s easy to forget he isn’t the real thing. He’s appealing, talented, and this film should launch his acting career well beyond the stratosphere.

Luhrmann is a director that’s an acquired taste for many, as his energetic, frantic cinematic language can be off-putting. I think he’s the ideal choice for this project, and his signature style is electrifying. The first half of the film is rapidly paced, his visual storytelling operating at a breakneck speed. It’s exhausting, but in a good way. The director captures the thrilling feeling that folks must’ve felt the first time they heard Elvis sing or saw him perform (one of the most memorable scenes are when women see him wiggle on stage: some criticized the “lewd gyrations,” but those ladies were reduced to screaming because they wanted more). If you take away all the spectacle, this would feel like just another standard biopic. But Luhrmann’s artistry and natural knack for creative storytelling elevates the material.

The pace calms down dramatically in the second half as Luhrmann tells the story of Elvis’ sad later years, with all the drugs, the meltdowns, the exhaustion, and his family problems. It’s like two different movies in one, but the slower tempo is the perfect fit for Presley’s life and career trajectory, especially when diving into the ugly side of show business.

Music fans will delight in the soundtrack, which is packed with creative arrangements of tried and true Elvis songs. The film utilizes music styles like rap and hip-hop to bring a modernization to the story and it works: even for Presley purists. If you aren’t keen on changing the classics, never fear: there are plenty of straight-up musical numbers that showcase the hits as they were written, too.

“Elvis” features grandiose visual storytelling that captures the awe and exhilaration that’s still felt from Presley’s mark he left on the world. This is one thrilling movie for Elvis fans.

3. “Bullet Train”

It takes a lot for a film to surprise me, and I love it when one does. “Bullet Train” is chocked full of so much stylish, bloody, violent fun that it reminds me why I love movies in the first place. Director David Leitch brings a confident, creative vision to his Guy Ritchie-meets-Gareth Evans-meets Matthew Vaughn-meets Quentin Tarantino style that’s rambunctious, frenzied, and in your face. While some will detest this sort of mayhem, many fans of the genre will join me in enthusiastically screaming, “shoot this into my veins!

Unlucky assassin Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is tired of the brutality. He’s back for another job, but has pledged to work peacefully and without a weapon. Ladybug has been tasked with retrieving a silver briefcase from a high-speed train in Japan, which seems simple enough. Fate steps in, naturally, putting a damper on his well-intentioned plans. The train is filled with the most lethal adversaries (and one deadly snake) from around the globe, and they all want the same thing. Chaos ensues in what may be a literal last man standing scenario.

Based on the book by Kôtarô Isaka, the film takes place almost solely onboard a train, but it never feels claustrophobic. Despite tight close-ups and many dialogue-heavy scenes with questionable writing, the cast (including Joey King, Andrew Koji, Michael Shannon, and Hiroyuki Sanada) keeps things engaging. Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a pair of professional criminals are particularly entertaining, and Pitt exercises his movie star chops with great aplomb. The storytelling is terrific (one of my favorite bits is the tale of Wolf, which is wonderfully executed), even if everything doesn’t quite come together as well as it could.

This is also a gorgeous looking film. Jonathan Sela‘s colorful cinematography is alluring, with a richness that elevates every scene. Leitch is skilled at directing action scenes that are thrilling, and fights that are well choreographed. Even the CGI is exciting.

The film reaches just the right balance between action, violence, and humor, and it’s one that I cannot wait to revisit. From the killer soundtrack to the rapid-fire visual storytelling, there’s a lot going on at all times. If you’re not paying attention, you’re guaranteed to miss something. I feel this one could benefit from subsequent viewings. Plus, it’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to rush back to re-watch a movie the second it ended.

“Bullet Train” is a film that will prove to be an acquired taste. It’s the type of movie that you’ll either love or loathe, with very few landing somewhere in between. It’s illogical, confrontational, and it’s sometimes evident that the film trying too hard, but I found it easy to overlook the flaws because it’s just so damn entertaining. Talk about a nonstop thrill ride.

2. “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Writer and director Martin McDonagh is no stranger to creating stories that find humor in darkness. In fact, it’s arguably what he does best. With his latest film “The Banshees of Inisherin,” McDonagh captures the sadness of a breakup between two longtime friends with his signature darkly comedic, cynical tone. It’s an emotional character study about loneliness and isolation that expertly blends humor and cruelty, and it’s one of my favorite films so far this year.

Set on a fictional remote island during the Irish Civil War of 1922, the film tells the story of buddies Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), two men who find themselves at an impasse. It all starts one day when Colm unexpectedly and abruptly decides to end their friendship, offering no explanation and leaving his former pal stunned and saddened. With the help of his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and the troubled islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan), Pádraic plans to do whatever it takes to repair the estranged relationship. His repeated efforts to reconcile annoy Colm to the point that he delivers a shocking ultimatum, which in turn escalates the petty feud to an alarming standoff that could have violent consequences.

Working from an outline of a sad breakup, McDonagh’s script flows with a natural rhythm that’s brimming with sharp wit and wry, dark humor. This isn’t a complex narrative, but the dialogue is impassioned and poignant with a genuine understanding of the human condition. McDonagh’s writing is like no other, with a natural talent that’s enviable. The script plays directly to the specific strengths of his cast, too.

Featuring Oscar-caliber performances, Gleeson and Farrell strike the perfect harmony as Colm and Pádraic. Their rapport is natural and relaxed, and there’s a comfortable feeling between the two actors which no doubt stems from being reunited with McDonagh. This trio should continue to make movies together because something magical happens when they do. Condon and Keoghan are also excellent in this story of conflicts, as Siobhán grapples with the realization that she may risk dying from an unhappy and unfulfilled life if she continues resisting her her urge to flee, and Dominic must deal with the mental suffering of being worn down by his abusive policeman father.

The strongest supporting turns come from the scene-stealing animal actors, who represent loyalty and unconditional friendship in a story that’s peppered with a dark undercurrent. Even as the humans around them struggle with their worlds falling apart (and a civil war raging nearby), their equine and canine companions keep them grounded. One of the most memorable scenes features a touching moment between a miniature donkey and a horse, and it is one that absolutely destroyed me. It’s moments like these that add up to a fiercely affective film that is adept at delivering a highly emotional experience to the audience.

Not only is McDonagh an effective writer, but he is also a talented director with a knack for capturing and creating a mood. Working in tandem with his cinematographer Ben Davis, the film is filled with stunning photography and astonishingly gorgeous scenery of coastal Ireland. These desolate landscapes lend a natural beauty that in turn creates a strong sense of place, providing the perfect backdrop for the story.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is an example of that increasingly rare instance where a film fully and completely achieves its desired effect. Backed by two of the finest performances of the year and a superbly written script, this is a piece of accomplished, outstanding filmmaking.

1. “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”

With strong themes of friendship, family, and always doing what’s right, there’s so much to love about the poignant and sweet animated mockumentary, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” Everything about this film is simply delightful, from its simple stop-motion animation to terrific voice performances from Jenny Slate and Isabella Rossellini.

Based on the hit YouTube film series from the 2010s, the film tells the story of the tiny shell Marcel (voice of Slate) and the day-to-day life that he leads with his grandmother, Nana Connie (voice of Rossellini). The pair live in a house in the suburbs that, after the couple who used to reside there had a very nasty breakup, is now being rented out as an Airbnb. When human documentary filmmaker Dean (Dean Fleischer-Camp) rents the place, he befriends Marcel, learning that his entire shell family disappeared two years ago. Armed with a camera, Dean decides to help his new pal find his lost clan, shooting a documentary about their epic quest.

It’s a simple story told in an elemental style, but director Fleischer-Camp has created a world of pure joy. Marcel is as cute as they come, a sweet, positive little guy with the sunniest of dispositions. He travels around in a tennis ball, climbs the walls by smearing honey on his feet, uses toenail clippings for skis, and has a “pet” ball of lint. It’s the little things that are so inventive and clever, so be sure to pay attention to the small details. It’s a lot like the scenes where Marcel gets carsick when he rides on Dean’s dashboard: there’s something irresistible about seeing the world through a shell’s eyes, and it becomes an effortless endeavor to find an appreciation for everything in your own surroundings, too.

While this sounds like a movie that’s great for kids, it’s probably better for older tweens (and up). It’s a film that’s more pensive than colorful or action-packed, and there are moments that talk openly and frankly about grief, fear, and death. With the help of Nana Connie, Marcel gains the courage to take risks that are scary but important, and he gains a ton of confidence along the way. The story also has a timely life lesson about the world of social media, and Marcel is given a heavy dose of reality when he learns that many of his online “fans” want to exploit him rather than actually help him find his family.

Just ten minutes into the movie, I was concerned that the eccentricity would wear thin quickly, but it does not. Fleischer-Camp, Slate and Nick Paley’s screenplay is so wise and tender and emotionally touching that even when the story ended, I wanted more. I cannot say enough positive things about this entire project because there are no missteps here. That’s why “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is one of my favorite films of the year.



Among some of my favorites of the year, these films came close to cracking the top 10:

“Triangle of Sadness”

“The Batman”



“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”

“Emily the Criminal”