Spanish film in 2022

As good as it gets

12/30/2022 · By Roberto C. Rascón
Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, alongside Luis Zahera and Denis Ménochet, during the shooting of ‘The Beasts’
Director Rodrigo Sorogoyen, alongside Luis Zahera and Denis Ménochet, during the shooting of ‘The Beasts’. © Arcadia Motion Pictures / Lucía Faraig

‘The Beasts’, ‘Lullaby’, ‘Alcarràs’, ‘Prison 77’ or ‘Manticore’ are just some of the great films that the Spanish film industry has released in 2022. Given this display of talent, we must ask ourselves: is this the best year ever for Spanish film? Before answering, let’s go over the titles and what’s been said about them in Spain and beyond.

On the 16th of February, Alcarràs won the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin International Film Festival. This is how a historic year for Spanish film started, with the first Spanish win at the Berlinale in 39 years. Since then, the cascade of high-quality titles hasn’t stopped. The Spanish film industry boasts renowned films that are admired around the world, but never has so much talent crystalised in the same year. Without meaning to humble brag, we could use words such as “brilliant”, “exceptional”, or “prodigious” to describe it. You only need to take a glimpse at this particular movie listing...

The Beasts
Antoine and Olga, a French couple (Marina Foïs and Denis Ménochet), move to a village in the Galician countryside. The peace and quiet they desire is clouded by a conflict with their neighbours, the Anta brothers (Luis Zahera and Diego Anido). Rodrigo Sorogoyen, alongside his usual screenwriter, Isabel Peña, build an increasingly tense atmosphere that becomes almost unbearable. Also, the social and cultural clash that exposes is complex and timely, behind which beats a story of unconditional love. For now, it’s a favourite for the Goya Awards with 17 nominations.

“A terrific psychological thriller and a brooding, muscular piece of filmmaking which makes the most of both the Galician backdrop and the imposing physicality of Ménochet.”
Screendaily

Lullaby
“The best Spanish film debut in years.” These are the words used by none other than Pedro Almodóvar to describe it. After taking the Málaga Film Festival by storm —best film, actress (Laia Costa and Susi Sánchez), script, and critics— this film by Alauda Ruiz de Azúa about motherhood and care arrived in cinemas, where word of mouth made it exceed expectations at the box office. The key: Its truth, which, alongside a script that naturally takes you from laughter to tears, is able to move anyone. Don’t forget tissues. It also leaves a phrase for posterity: “Sometimes you’re happy and you don’t know it.”

“Capture a subtle and detailed still of what being a mother means today without ever not being a daughter” — Cinemanía

Prison 77
To 1977, specifically inside Barcelona’s Cárcel Modelo, is where director Alberto Rodríguez takes us in a dramatic thriller with a historical background: the precarious situation of the inmates during the first tumultuous years of democracy in Spain. Vigorously narrated, it has the perfect cast —with Miguel Herrán and Javier Gutiérrez as main characters, and Jesús Carroza and Fernando Tejero playing secondary roles; all Goya nominees— and a setting that makes the most of the space: the iconic prison. A film which exudes quality.

“With carefully constructed characters and absolutely true to the mantra of entertaining, it gifts the audience forceful scenes and powerful performances”
Fotogramas

Manticore
A manticore is a mythological creature that has the head of a human, the body of a lion and a tail of a dragon. In short, a monstruous creature that’s both attractive and repulsive at the same time. This is what Carlos Vermut’s new work is like. After Magical Girl, the director explores the darkest corners of the human soul again, without indulging in sensationalism. It’s best not to know much more before seeing it. The result is a film that you can’t look away from and whose impact lasts minutes, hours, even days. Nacho Sánchez’s bold performance could win him a Goya Award for Best Leading Actor.

“Carlos Vermut once again leads the viewer into such turbulent territories that, days after watching his fourth feature film, his stimuli continue to strike our neurons”
Cineuropa

Alcarràs
In 2017, Carla Simón became the surprise star of Spanish film with her debut: the very personal Summer 1993. For this reason, the expectations for her second film were sky high, and it didn’t disappoint. Alcarràs saw the light at the Berlin International Film Festival and won the Golden Bear, something that hadn’t happened since 1983 with La colmena (Mario Camus). Also, the young director became the first Spanish woman to win an award at one of the big festivals (Cannes, Venecia, San Sebastián and Berlin). The film follows the Solé family, dedicated to peach growing, and captures an endangered way of life with honesty and humility.

“That Simón has created such complex, conflicted characters and won such marvellous performances from amateurs is a testament to her powers of empathy”
Deadline

One Year, One Night
On the 13th of November of 2015, a group of terrorists attacked the Bataclan theatre in Paris during a concert. The Spaniard Ramón González was one of the survivors and captured his experience in the book Paz, amor y death metal. Based on those pages, Isaki Lacuesta delves into the trauma and explores the mechanisms of fear, pain, and memory with a daring visual montage and soundscape. The wonderful Argentinian actor Nahuel Pérez Biscayart and French actress Noémi Merlant head a cast including Spanish actors Quim Gutiérrez, Natalia de Molina and C. Tangana.

“[It] benefits from innovative direction and eloquent performances. It’s more terrifying than any horror film” — The Hollywood Reporter

The Rite of Spring
Laura is a young woman who, like so many others every year, lands in Madrid to start her university degree. One night she meets David, a guy with cerebral palsy, by chance. From here, Fernando Franco unfolds a brave story of personal growth with respect, empathy, spontaneity, sensibility, and elegance —he shines a spotlight on the sexuality of people with disabilities and the role of sexual assistants—. Valèria Sorolla and Telmo Irureta, both nominated to Goya Awards for Best New Actress and Actor, shine bright.

“The number of feelings the film produces is enormous. There is bitterness and darkness, but lightness prevails”
ABC

Other noteworthy films this 2022 are On the Fringe (Juan Diego Botto), Wild Flowers (Jaime Rosales), The Water (Elena López Riera), Motherhood (Pilar Palomero), Piggy (Carlota Pereda), Pacifiction (Albert Serra), Voy a pasármelo bien (David Serrano), The Final Game (Àlex Murrull and Dani de la Orden), Cork (Mikel Gurrea), You Have to Come and See It (Jonás Trueba), Unicorn Wars (Alberto Vázquez) or The Yellow Ceiling (Isabel Coixet).

Have you seen them yet? What are you waiting for? It’s time to celebrate the best year in Spanish film!