The year in queer cinema: Best and worst of 2022

"Girl Picture" cast on a couch.
“Girl Picture” is a charming romantic drama from Finland.
Strand Releasing

The Year in Queer Cinema 2022 may be defined by the box office flop of “Bros,” Hollywood’s first studio-backed queer rom-com, as well as the acting highlights of Cate Blanchett as a (fictional) lesbian conductor in “TÁR,” and Brendan Fraser’s “comeback” performance as a severely obese gay man in “The Whale.”

There were some other notable films, trends, and performances this year, such as the uptick of films made by trans and BIPOC filmmakers. Here is a rundown of the best and worst in LGBTQ cinema in 2022.

Best Rom-com: “Fire Island”

Featuring humor and heart, and a sense of camaraderie from its queer cast that made viewers swoon and laugh, director Andrew Ahn and screenwriter/star Joel Kim Booster made magic — as did co-star Conrad Ricamora, who was irresistible as the film’s reluctant love interest.

Runner Up: “Bros”

While it had its share of laughs and romance, this studio film featured an irritable lead (co-writer Billy Eichner) who was rather off-putting both on screen and off — when he complained on social media about his film’s failure at the box office. Co-star Luke Macfarlane was dreamy, though, and the large queer supporting cast was delightful.

Honorable Mention: “Anything’s Possible”

Out gay actor Billy Porter brought verve and style to his upbeat directorial debut in “Anything’s Possible,” a romantic comedy-drama about a trans teenager Kelsa (trans actress Eva Reign) who falls in love with her classmate, Khal (Abubakr Ali).

Best Drama: “TÁR”

“TÁR” showcased an extraordinary performance by Cate Blanchett as a lesbian conductor whose manipulative behavior catches up with her. But it also has much to say about genius and the abuse of power.

Runner Up: “The Inspection”

Out gay writer/director Elegance Bratton’s knockout film, based on his own life, has Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) enlisting in the marines. Once at boot camp, French is subjected to physical and psychological pain that Bratton and his cast convey with both despair and dignity.

Honorable Mention: “Girl Picture”

In this charming romantic drama from Finland, three teenagers (two of them queer) grapple with love, sex, and heightened emotions. Director Alli Haapasalo’s film was refreshing for allowing its heroines to make mistakes. The leads are all engaging, and come across as real teenage girls, which is why the film is so gratifying.

Best Horror Film: You Won’t Be Alone

“You Won’t Be Alone,” the first feature film by out gay filmmaker Goran Stolevski, was a flat-out masterpiece. Set in 19th century Macedonia, it featured a character who shape-shifted into people (and animals), changing genders and ending lives.

Runner Up: They/Them

This film features teens at a conversion therapy camp confronting a killer. The directorial debut by out gay writer John Logan, “They ‘Slash’ Them” (get it?) featured a terrific ensemble cast of LBGTQ actors and generates laughs, scares, horror film tropes and salient points about queer identity in equal measure.

Honorable Mention: “Hypochondriac”

Out writer/director Addison Heimann made an auspicious feature directorial debut with “Hypochondriac,” a queer horror film “based on a real breakdown” he himself experienced.

Breakout Performance of the Year: Cooper Koch 

Out gay actor Cooper Koch distinguished himself as one the gay teens in “They/Them,” but Koch also gave an impressive performance in the gay horror film “Swallowed” that screened on the festival circuit this year.

Runner Up: Pedro Fasano

In the gritty queer drama, “Private Desert,” Pedro Fasano portrayed both Robson and Sara. The non-binary actor gave a very accomplished, multi-layered, and confident performance in his film debut.

Best Foreign Film: “Dos Estaciones”

This outstanding Mexican drama immerses viewers in the world of Maria (Teresa Sánchez) a lesbian who owns a failing tequila factory. The film contrasts her character Tatín (Tatín Vera), a self-made transgender woman, who runs the salon in town. This remarkable film chronicles both characters’ lives with subtlety and restraint.

Runner Up: “Peter Van Kant”

Out gay writer/director François Ozon, has reworked Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant” shifting the gender of the title character, and having actor Denis Menochet play the lead role as a version of Fassbinder. The result may feel like a gimmick, but it pays off handsomely. This is a fantastic, engrossing chamber drama.

Honorable Mention: “Benediction”

Out gay writer/director Terence Davies’ elegant, elegiac biopic of the gay British poet Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden plays him as a young man; Peter Capaldi takes over the role in his later years). Exquisitely filmed, this melancholic British period piece features gorgeous costumes and music as well as plenty of witty, bitchy dialogue.

Best Documentary: “Framing Agnes”

Trans filmmaker Chase Joynt’s fascinating film recreates UCLA professor Harold Garfinkel’s interviews with six trans men and trans women from the 1960s using files from the university’s archives to explore how transpeople have been sensationalized in American culture. His multilayered investigation forces viewers to shift lenses to create a greater sense of understanding.

Runner Up: “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”

Laura Poitras’ documentary profiles Nan Goldin and her efforts to confront — and make other confront — the Sackler family’s participation in the opioid crisis. Told with urgency and a strong connection to the LGBT community, this film is heartbreaking and galvanizing at the same time.

Most Original Film: “Neptune Frost”

A heady, visually stimulating, sci-fi musical extravaganza from Rwanda about gender and economic inequality, among other political topics featuring some intersex characters and fabulous musical sequences, makeup, and costumes. (One character sports a jacket made from a disassembled computer keyboard.) This is an impressive film, even if it takes several viewings to process all of it.

Best Queer Film That Only Played Film Festivals): “Three Headed Beast”

Writer/directors Fernando Andrés and Tyler Rugh’s exceptional feature debut, “Three Headed Beast,” chronicles an open relationship of a bisexual couple almost entirely without dialogue. This is not a gimmick; the lack of conversation between Peter (Jacob Schatz), Nina (Dani Hurtado), his partner of eight years, and Alex (Cody Shook), his new boyfriend, lets them express their desires, regrets, anger, and jealousy in other ways. “Three Headed Beast” provides an apt commentary on communication in this digital age, and the filmmakers’ observations about marriage, monogamy, open relationships, and bisexuality will prompt considerable discussion. Hopefully, it will get the distribution it deserves in 2023.

Runner Up: “Swallowed”

The wonderfully uncomfortable film “Swallowed” has Ben (out actor Cooper Koch, from “They/Them”) readying to leave Maine to pursue a career in adult films in Los Angeles. But his buddy Dom (Jose Colon in an impressive screen debut) gets them both involved in smuggling “drugs” across the Canadian border by swallowing them. Out gay director Carter Smith ratchets up the tension as things get increasingly more squirm-inducing for Ben and Dom (and viewers) — when Rich (Out Mark Patton) wants the drugs extracted. 

 Worst Film: “My Policeman”

The fusty British drama, “My Policeman,” depicted a love triangle four decades apart between two men and one woman in Brighton, England. This bland drama fails to jerk tears as the performances were uneven and the shifting narrative undercuts the emotions.

Worst Documentary: “Loving Highsmith”

“Loving Highsmith” is a superficial portrait of queer writer Patricia Highsmith.

Worst Performance: Ben Platt in “People We Hate at the Wedding.” 

As a hapless gay man, Platt tries way too hard in his scenes. His performance in this comedy is more frustrating than funny.

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