Winter is here and we’re getting our first new releases of 2022, while also still catching up on those films released late in 2021. Below is a look at all the new movies I saw this week! If you’d like to see more of my scores for films and thoughts, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd here.
The 355 (Theaters)
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Diane Kruger, Penelope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o, and Sebastian Stan
Synopsis: The first major release of 2022 is a spy thriller from co-writer/director Simon Kinberg. It boasts a pretty excellent cast and looked like it had the potential to be a fun action film. But looks can be deceiving. This film isn’t horrible. It moves at an OK pace and has some fun set pieces. I liked Chastain and Kruger in particular, while Stan does fine in his role. The problem was that the action sequences weren’t incredible and weren’t enough to overcome what felt like a clunky story. It ran a bit too long and meandered in its plot. It felt like there were too many endings—perhaps in service of establishing a franchise—with the final ending being the weakest of the lot. The cast here deserved better, as did the audience. With the whole reference and tie-in for the title only coming to play in an absurd exchange in the final 10 minutes. This wasn’t a train wreck, but it was a major missed opportunity.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, brief strong language, and suggestive material.
Starring: Jessica Barden, Gus Halper, and Pamela Adlon
Synopsis: This indie drama marks the first feature for writer/director Nicole Riegel, earning her a nomination in the category at the Independent Spirit Awards. After a limited release, the film is now available to stream for those with access to Showtime. It focuses on Ruth (Barden), a talented girl from a poor family. She and her brother (Halper) try to carve out a living while their mother (Adlon) is in rehab. She gets into college and her brother pushes her to attend, but can she find the money. And, more importantly, can she leave her life and family behind? In order to answer some of those questions, they embark on an illegal scrap metal hustle that threatens to get them in some hot water. This film features some themes and the kind of story we’ve seen many times. There are even plot elements that felt like references to other films. I felt a strong Good Will Hunting vibe in the final act. The film plays out OK and holds your interest thanks in large part to Barden, who delivers a strong performance in the lead role. Holler is well made even if it offers little that feels fresh in terms of the overall arc of the plot.
Rating: Rated R for language and sexual references.
Petite Maman (Limited)
Starring: Josephine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, and Nina Meurisse
Synopsis: This French film is among the contenders for Best Foreign Language Feature and made the festival rounds in the United States and elsewhere this Fall. It’s a short film, running just 72 minutes, centering on a pair of child actors—Josephine and Gabrielle. It’s about a young girl, Nelly (Josephine), whose grandmother has recently passed. She goes with her mother (Meurisse) to clean out her grandmother’s home. Soon, she finds herself connecting with the younger version of her mother (Gabrielle) as they bond over life and shared interests. This film, from director Celine Sciamma, who also wrote the screenplay, makes the most of its young performers and offers a little slice of life that’s a meditation on life, loss and the connection between parents and children. It has its moments but didn’t fully connect on an emotional level as I think was the intention. It’s cute and well made but I could have used a bit more depth to the narrative.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.