2021 Arts Preview: The Year Ahead in Film

Scotsman film critic Alistair Harkness on the films to look out for in 2022

The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, opens in March
The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, opens in March

The Batman (4 March)

Putting the Goth into Gotham City, the latest iteration of Batman sees former Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson donning the cape and cowl as a moodier, paler, more vampiric-looking Bruce Wayne. Pitting Batman against Colin Farrell’s Penguin and Paul Dano’s Riddler, the Matt Reeves-directed film certainly looks moody in all the right ways and features a cameo from Glasgow’s Necropolis, doubling up for a Gotham City graveyard. Pattinson’s isn’t the only Dark Knight stalking the streets of Glasgow, though. The city doubled for Gotham when production on the The Flash (4 November) took up residency last summer to film scenes for the timeline-fracturing superhero tale that is due to bring back Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton as alternate universe versions of the Caped Crusader. And the new Batgirl movie (release TBC) has also been shooting in the city, proving that Glasgow is ready for its close-up.

Poor Things (release date TBC)

Robert Pattinson in The Batman

Ironically, just as blockbuster production took over Glasgow, the very Glaswegian Alasdair Gray adaptation Poor Things went into production in Hungary, with Mark Ruffalo, Emma Stone and Willem Defoe starring in this twisted postmodern riff on Frankenstein about a young Victorian woman brought back to life with the brain of a baby. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek auteur behind The Favourite, Dogtooth and The Lobster, this adaptation of Gray’s playfully transgressive, unreliably narrated novel couldn’t be in better hands.

Glasgow Film Festival (2-13 March)

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Staying in Glasgow, this year’s GFF will serve up a hybrid event with a mix of physical and online screenings, with a few key films playing simultaneously across the UK. Its regular country focus will also be expanded to a continental survey of African cinema entitled Voices of Africa, while the retrospective will spotlight Edith Carlmar, Norway’s first female director, whose Death is a Caress (1949) was the country’s first film noir. Opening and closing night films will be revealed on 12 January with the full programme launching on 26 January.

Nightmare Alley (21 January)

Honour Swinton Byrne in The Souvenir Part II

Guillermo Del Toro’s first feature since winning the best film and best director Oscars for The Shape of Water sees the Mexican auteur apply his fantastical imagination to film noir with this adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel about an ambitious carnival mentalist (Bradley Cooper) who meets his match in Cate Blanchett’s sinister psychiatrist. Reviews have been mixed, but Del Toro’s work is always a feast for the eyes. Rooney Mara, Toni Collette and Willem Defoe co-star.

The Souvenir Part II (4 February)

Joanna Hogg’s follow-up to her 2019’s arthouse hit fictionalising her early years as a fledgling filmmaker in 1980s London once again stars Honour Swinton Byrne as Hogg’s inscrutable film-student alter-ego, Julia. A relentlessly inventive film, it’s also drily funny, with layers of meta-gags courtesy of Tilda Swinton’s return as Julia’s artistically dissatisfied mother and Richard Ayoade reprising his role as an amusingly pretentious hotshot filmmaker shooting an Absolute Beginners-style musical.

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Parallel Mothers (28 January)

Belle

Pedro Almodóvar loves stories about lives intersecting in strange ways and his latest is one of his best: a melodrama about a 40-year-old photographer (Penelope Cruz) who befriends a teenage girl (Milena Smit) when both give birth on the same day. But it’s also very much about Spain’s troubled past, with a subplot involving an investigation into atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War.

Belle (release date TBC)

Recipient of a 14-minute standing ovation when it premiered at Cannes last year, Mamoru Hosoda’s eye-popping anime is big screen spectacle at its finest: a mind-blowing riff on the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast (one of Mamoru’s favourite films) filtered through the virtual high-tech aesthetics of Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix.

Belfast (21 January)

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Belfast

Kenneth Branagh has been picking up plaudits left, right and centre for this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale of innocence lost amid the Troubles. Set in 1969 and shot (a la Roma) in shimmering black-and-white, it stars Jamie Dornan and Catriona Balfe as the working-class parents of exuberant eight-year-old Branagh cipher Buddy (newcomer Jude Hill), whose sheltered life is about to be upended. Although Branagh stays behind the camera on Belfast, he will unleash his hammier side once again when he and his moustache return as Hercule Poirot in his long-delayed Agatha Christie sequel Death on the Nile (11 February).

Dashcam (release date TBC)

“It’s about about the uncertainty and unease now that we’ve stepped out into the world,” says Scottish producer Douglas Cox of his latest horror movie collaboration with director Rob Savage and the team behind 2020’s lockdown sensation Host. Set and shot just as lockdown restrictions were easing, it’s a found-footage monster movie updated for the age of live-streaming sites such as Twitch. It also features a gloriously unhinged lead performance from American alt-rocker Annie Hardy, cast here as an obnoxious social media troll who arrives in Britain and finds herself contending with far more than she bargained for.

Top Gun: Maverick (27 May)

Originally slated for a summer 2020 release, Tom Cruise’s already belated Top Gun sequel is the most delayed movie of the pandemic and will now arrive a whopping 36 years after the original film made the Cruiser a global superstar. More enticing is Mission: Impossible 7 (30 September), which will have been worth the wait if it comes close to matching the thrills and spills of the previous instalment.

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Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick PIC: Paramount