Written by Steve Norton and Adam Kline
It’s awards season, and many film critics, podcasters, and trophy-giving groups are talking about the best films of last year. But in this column, instead of listing our best or favourite films from 2022, we’ve decided to share a short list of some of the most meaningful movies from last year. Stories that are not only thought-provoking but also help start meaningful conversations about the Kingdom of God—Jesus’ way of life in the here and now. So here are a handful of movies, connected to scriptural themes, that you might want to add to your watch list and discuss with others.
“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:14
The Banshees of Inisherin (Available on Disney+)
If you were to make a map of the conversations and cruelty found on social media, and added to it the existential despair and loneliness of a pandemic, this film (or fable) would be the topographical transparency you place atop, to bring everything into focus. The Banshees of Inisherin is a perfect parable for our time. From social divisions large and small to the seeming futility of a simple kindness—whether it’s 1923 on an Irish isle or 2023 in Canada—the threat of isolation and insignificance is always before us.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (Available to Rent)
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is 2022’s unsung hero. He’s an inch tall, completely honest and innocent, and may understand more about the true nature of community than any of us. This little trinket lives a quiet life with his grandmother in an Airbnb until Dean, an unwitting director, stumbles across him, changing both of their lives forever. Having lost his entire family in a tragic accident, Marcel knows the power of community and draws his new friend into his life. Not content when Dean is the only one asking the questions, Marcel insists that they share one another’s burdens together. As they form a relationship, both characters begin to find healing and hope from the support they find in each other.
“I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll … On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.” Ezekiel 2:9-10
Resurrection (Available on Shudder or AMC+)
Several films were released last year about the terror, trauma, strength, and perseverance of women (She Said and Women Talking are both excellent). Resurrection, a psychological horror film about a female protagonist, may be the most extreme of them all. This film is not for the faint of heart, but I (Adam) cannot deny its impact nor the conversations it caused in my own life. This is a story that explores the effects of patriarchal abuse, manipulation, PTSD, and parental paranoia. It portrays these weighty themes with mystery, madness, and graphic violence. There may be no better genre to express lament than scary movies or terrifying stories such as this.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (Available on Prime Video)
With its wild journey into the multiverse, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a film that’s looking for hope in a hopeless world. Without giving any spoilers, this story understands the overwhelming nature of the universe. It mourns the evils of man, the brokenness of the world, and the meaninglessness of constant information. The more that these characters learn about the ever-present darkness, the more broken by it they become. Yet this is not a film that hates everything. Instead, it is looking for hope at a time when we seem to have all the questions but no real answers.
“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.” Psalm 103:6
Emergency (Available on Prime Video)
Emergency is a hilarious and endearing college bromance movie that is elevated by intense twists and turns and sharp social commentary. The film has some painfully honest and thought-provoking moments as it portrays experiences of people of colour. With sincerity and great chemistry, this young cast brings us into their world and shares with us their aspirations and anxieties, their vocational dreams, and everyday fears. Their futures are bright, but this world of ours is broken.
Barbarian (Available on Disney+)
This tightly-executed little thriller tells the story of a young woman who arrives at her Airbnb only to discover that it’s been double-booked. As she decides whether or not she can trust her temporary roommate, she also discovers something far, far darker in play. The film explores toxic masculinity and shows how dangerous it can be. Although the storytelling is wild, Barbarian understands the complexities of the issues at play and the importance of uncovering the poison of oppression.
“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.” Hebrews 6:11
After Yang (Available on Crave)
This is a quiet and tender family film set in an organic sci-fi future. After Yang starts with a family’s dis-unified sense of loss and then intrigues us with a mystery involving a lost loved one. This film could be described as a beautiful work of meditation due to its cinematography, sound design, and gentle performances. Ultimately, it reminds us that our stories are but memories, and if we pull back just enough, we can start to see the beauty of a greater narrative emerge.
The Whale (Now in theatres)
In The Whale, we meet Charlie, an obese man who wants to reconnect with his daughter as his life draws to an end. The film uses metaphors to drive home its messages; Charlie is drenched in a world of toxicity. As the rain pours outside his apartment, we see that almost everyone in this film has a selfish agenda. Whether they’re motivated by greed, addiction, or revenge, these characters bear the weight of their past hurts. But, in the midst of this, Charlie still believes that ‘people are amazing’. Even in its hardest moments, there’s a power of grace that fuels this film that makes it one of the most staggering and poetic commitments to hope for broken people that we’ve seen in recent years.
Steve Norton is a writer and podcaster living in Toronto, Ont. Adam Kline is an intercultural engagement team lead and storyteller living in Belleville, Ont.