Hollywood Reporter film critics pick top 20 movies – The Hollywood Reporter


The eye-opening documentary by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee delves into the crisis of black maternal mortality in the United States. Chronicling how two families deal with the aftermath of preventable maternal deaths, it’s lucid work that investigates and contextualizes this under-reported issue without losing sight of the people dealing with the depths of their loss. — LOVIA GYARKYE

Shaunak Sen’s quietly provocative and dreamily beautiful documentary focuses on two brothers dedicated to rescuing injured birds of prey in the polluted air above New Delhi. One of the pleasures of the movie is how it lets you process things as deeply as you want. Is it the portrait of a city? Heroic siblings? Of humanity plagued by climate change and on the brink of COVID? This marvel of non-fiction cinema is a little and a lot at the same time. —DANIEL FIENBERG

Am I okay?
A tender and slightly funny portrait of a friendship in the making, Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne’s comedy-drama centers on a woman (an excellent Dakota Johnson) who reveals she is gay just when her best friend (Sonoya Mizuno) is preparing to move abroad. The film has a definite sense of intimacy and laid-back chemistry between longtime companions. —ANGIE HAN

Carol screenwriter Phyllis Nagy’s moving drama tells the story of a suburban woman (played agitatedly by Elizabeth Banks) who becomes involved in the Jane Collective, an underground service that provided safe abortions in years past Roe vs. Wade. It is an invigorating and intimate vision of a historical moment that is less distant than one might think. —SHERI LINDEN

Building on strengths from early adulthood, Shit, Cooper Raiff’s second effort is more mainstream without feeling generic. Dakota Johnson plays a single mother charmed by a young man (Raiff) who connects with her autistic child. The love story’s complications seem as distilled from life as the heartache and homesickness of the previous film. — JOHN DEFORE

Sara Dosa’s remarkable documentary explores the life and death of French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who dedicated themselves and their marriage to hunting eruptions around the world. With dreamy narration by Miranda July, it’s a doomed love story and a beautiful collage of a film in which romance, scientific inquiry and mortality do a 93-minute dance. —DF

Julie Ha and Eugene Yi’s regular and sensitive documentary examines a Korean immigrant’s wrongful conviction for the 1973 murder of a gang leader in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The film is both a portrait of a man brutalized by the prison system – the case galvanized the Asian American community in California – and a larger portrait of the system itself. —LG

Based on the short story by James Lee Burke, Julian Higgins’ film follows a grieving black college professor (a quitting Thandiwe Newton) in his growing feud with two intruding white hunters. Even with a few overcooked or awkward explanatory moments, this is tense, often uplifting, slow-burning drama that’s impossible to look away from. —LG

This extremely likeable and intimate British comedy-drama stars Emma Thompson as a widowed primitive high school teacher who hires Daryl McCormack’s sex worker, hoping to have an orgasm for the first time. The film paints a refreshingly sexual portrait of a client-escort relationship, but with a client for a change. — LESLIE FELPERIN

Members of a Chicago group that has helped thousands of women obtain illegal abortions offer first-hand accounts of the challenges, risks and achievements of their work in Tia Lessin and Emma’s urgent and highly engaging documentary Pildes. It is both a dynamic and thoughtful group portrait and an essential oral history of activism and frontline care. — SL

Max Walker-Silverman’s moving feature debut centers on two 60-year-old childhood sweethearts (Dale Dickey and Wes Studi) who reunite for a night at a Colorado campsite. With unflinching confidence and finely calibrated emotion, the film slips under your skin – thanks in large part to the indelibly expressive faces and voices of its wondrous protagonists. — JON FROSCH

In her touching debut effort as a nonfiction director, Amy Poehler explores the marriage and professional partnership of sitcom pioneers Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Bringing a particularly powerful sense of understanding and connection to the subject, she offers a brilliant and piercing insight into both belly laughs and heartbreak. — SL

Nikyatu Jusu’s feature debut, about a Senegalese woman working as a nanny for a wealthy New York couple, is the rare film about the immigrant experience to understand the emotional nuances of physically living in one place while one’s heart resides in it. another. The film also makes skilful use of West African folklore imagery – a breath of fresh air in a landscape of horror so often disinterested in the African diaspora. —JOURDAIN SEARLES

In Jamie Dack’s subtle and painful beginnings of the relationship between a teenage girl and a man twice her age, fleeting glances, shifts in body language and deliberate silences come together to form a disturbing examination of consent and predation. . Protagonists Lily McInerny and Jonathan Tucker evoke the endearing awkwardness of any courtship without losing sight of the terrifying nature of it. —LG

Writer-director Carlota Pereda delivers a harrowing genre exploration of bullying, trauma, revenge and desire around an overweight teenager in a Spanish town. Although the film escalates into bloody horror, it never hides the feeling that its social commentary on abuse comes from a very real and personal place. —DAVID ROONEY

Rebecca Hall gives a stunning performance as a woman whose traumatic personal story disrupts the calm life she has built as a successful businesswoman and single mother in Andrew Semans’ chilling and highly effective thriller. A sinister Tim Roth plays the menacing man from his past. —CARYN JAMES

Lena Dunham’s bold, messy and singular film straddles the line between coming-of-age tale and sex comedy as it follows a 26-year-old girl (Kristine Froseth) who sets her sights on father (Jon Bernthal) of the autistic boy she babysits. It’s the most liberated Dunham in some time, with a caustic, free tone that shakes off years of silence and scrutiny. —JS

The beautifully directed feature debut from writer-director Alejandro Loayza Grisi follows an elderly indigenous couple trying to survive in the arid, drought-ravaged climate of the Bolivian highlands. Looking like a cross between a minimalist Sergio Leone western and a Sebastião Salgado photo series, it’s a clever and powerful cautionary tale about endurance in a dying world. —JORDAN MINTZER

W. Kamau Bell’s four-part Showtime docuseries explores Bill Cosby’s legacy as a television icon and convicted predator, showing how his fame, influence and criminality were all intertwined. It’s provocative, pragmatic and heartbreaking, charting a long journey from the start of stand-up comedy to public shaming replacing all that came before. —DF

Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard star as a mother and son with a thorny relationship in Jesse Eisenberg’s bitterly funny and lucid feature debut. Clever and uncomfortable, the film targets the same vanities that fueled Eisenberg’s own breakthrough as an actor, The squid and the whale. —JD

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.


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