Top picks from South By Southwest 2022 Film Festival - header image

Top Movies of South By Southwest Film Festival 2022

South By Southwest Film Festival 2022 has ended, so let’s recap the top movies screened this year.

While this year’s Sundance Film Festival focused on female-led films, spread across drama, horror, and comedy (and everything in between), SXSW Film Festival 2022 picked up the torch and carried on with the cinematic marathon, however, with a less specific direction.

SXSW 2022 boasted a lineup of nearly 100 feature films – hence almost every genre made the cut, leaving plenty to chew on.

Promo image of Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

The Daniels took the crown withEverything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

The buzziest title of the festival was Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022), a true triumph of artistry and vivid imagination by the Daniels. Spanning across nearly three hours, that – by the way – pass by effortlessly, it’s the most creatively captivating film in decades. The directing duo possesses the rare ability to make a film where pinky punches, rocks with googly eyes, and sex toys altogether cement a heartfelt story of a family in despair.

Celebrating a special award that recognized a meme-filled, impressive career of over 40 years, was Nicolas Cage. And what a better tribute to your own greatness than an espionage action movie where Mr. Cage plays himself?

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) has all the thrills of a modern blockbuster, as well as the wit and courage to embrace the weirdness of its leading star.

the whole cast of X (2022) directed by Ti West

A24 called SXSW 2022 their home

SXSW 2022 could easily feature a separate section dedicated to A24 releases.

Apart from The Unberbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) and Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022), the slate of A24 included a few other titles. Among them were two horror features – X (2022) by Ti West and Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022).

While we didn’t get a chance to catch up with the screening of the latter, X (2022) had not swept us off our feet. The integrity and stylishness of X (2022) are commendable, yet A24’s history with horror movies abided in far more memorable flicks. X (2022) falls between two stools, having too little originality to claim its own X-factor, but delivering enough thrills to call it entertaining.

Cosmo Jarvis starring in It Is In Us All (2022)

Winners of SXSW 2022

The biggest winners of the two main competitions were I Love My Dad (2022) and It Is In Us All (2022) – we covered the latter in a festival review. Btw, all the winning titles can be found here.

It Is In Us All (2022), directed by actor-turned-director Antonia Campbell-Hughes, followed a wayward man who travels to Ireland to dig into his roots and identity. Although the film’s striking visuals and palpable harshness leave an impression, Campbell-Hughes falters whenever her story aims for more profound, more thoughtful subjects.

While we’re covering the drama section of the festival, two feature films deserve a shout-out – Linoleum (2022) and To Leslie (2022).

Linoleum (2022) is a touching tale about finding your own peace when facing the inevitable passing of time. The protagonist, played with admirable dedication by Jim Gaffigan, is an underachieving host of an educational kids’ show. Day after day passes by without much difference, only adding to his bitterness and putting the dream of becoming an astronaut an inch farther away. Hence when an unprecedented event takes place in the neighborhood, the man decides to prove his worth to the world by constructing a space rocket.

Check out the review of Linoleum (2022).

Jim Gaffigan starring in Sci Fi drama Linoleum (2022)

The main character of To Leslie (2022) also battles demons of the past.

After winning a lottery years ago, Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) barely makes ends meet. Stripped of her jovial charm, and with the bottle being her best and only friend, it’s time for Leslie to get a grip and fix the wrongs.

Michael Morris, a TV veteran for whom this is a directorial feature debut, crafts a tale of redemption without the necessity to indulge in vivid nightmares of hitting rock bottom. To Leslie (2022) avoids gratuitous images of pure shock value, and to some viewers, that may cause the drama to lack a punchline. Yet Morris knows where his strengths lay – in the phenomenal leading role of Andrea Riseborough and the subtlety of depicting the hardships stemming from alcohol abuse.

Did the South By Southwest Film Festival 2022 show any entertaining horror movies?

The Midnight section of SXSW 2022 noted a few high notes, with Joseph and Vanessa Winter’s Deadstream (2022) bringing the most unexpected revelation – a horror about the modern tech and social media era that comes with scares, fun, and wit.

Deadstream (2022) - Shawn Ruddy knocked unconscious

Following the trail of a YouTube influencer who recently fell off the pantheon after a tumultuous scandal squandered years of fanbase-building, Deadstream (2022) mixes found footage with another threadbare sub-genre, the haunted-house movie. The blasting cocktail really works – the sympathetically moronic protagonist, the plethora of haunts and ghosts, and the stakes-boosting live stream that captures the lengths self-proclaimed celebrities of the Internet go to keep their momentum going.

Packed in the easily digestible 90-minutes runtime, Deadstream (2022) isn’t just the best horror of SXSW 2022 but also one of the top horror films of the year.

Read our guide to the 2022 horror landscape.

An entirely different experience – hardly a casual entertainer fitting for a night out with friends – was Beth de Araújo’s Soft & Quiet (2022). This socially and politically engaged thriller was doped out to jar viewers and provoke heated discussions.

still from soft & quiet (2022)

Soft & Quiet (2022) records a single afternoon over which a group of women meets to chat about their views on every other race other than white. De Araújo crafts an intense nightmare – a film that feeds on our fears of monsters living among us, hiding behind the facades of prim-and-proper people, perfectly-mowed grass, and smiling neighbors.

Sadly, it doesn’t take aliens like in John Carpenter’s They Live (1988) to instigate from the backstage – people are strangers to themselves, and with the right push, they erase any trace of moral gravity that keeps them from crossing the most horrible of lines.

Read the full review and analysis of Soft & Quiet (2022).

Winona Ryder starring in The Cow (2022)

Although that’s a bit of a stretch, The Cow (2022), starring Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney, mingles with horror too. A couple arrives at a cabin they’ve rented for the weekend, yet there’s a surprise waiting for them – another duo that presumably booked a stay at the same time.

A nightmare for every AirBnB owner and user meanders in bizarre directions, but luckily director Eli Horowitz glues it all together with a tight grip over the narrative structure. The Cow (2022) unravels pieces of the puzzle in a near whodunnit pattern, feeding us with breadcrumbs that lead to the grand – and bonkers – finale.

Significantly less entertaining were other horror movies featured in the lineup.

Bitch Ass (2022) mixed up the festivals for it only belongs to Shlockfest 2022; The Cellar (2022) had scarcely anything going for it; Sissy (2022) missed the message it conveyed and left a bad taste, while Hypochondriac (2022) took too long to engage its engines for proper take off.

What about the international films screened at the South By Southwest Film Festival 2022?

Although a bit too decorous and immersed in excessive color grading & editing touches, Chee$e (2022) – shipped from Trinidad and Tobago – heralds the rise of a new Caribbean talent Damian Marcano.

A fisherman hacks his way into the untapped market of drug trafficking in the islands and becomes entangled in deals with far more dangerous people and organizations. Marcano weaves phantasmagorical elements into the story and ushers the protagonist into the perilous world, letting us have a glimpse of living in what looks like a paradise postcard.

Brazilian drama Raquel 1:1 (2022) constituted a solid reference for Soft & Quiet (2022). Another women-only group (teenagers) decides to analyze the Bible and reiterate some of the sacred verses to adjust the decades-old wisdom to modern times. Understandably, the local community’s far from approving of this message.

Left to ponder on her own, banished from social life, the girl paves her way to fulfill the mission she’s been given. Director Mariana Bastos fiddles with some very compelling notions – i.e. who has the right to correct God’s word – but the film seriously struggles with pacing.

Read more about 2022 film festivals:

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