2022 Chicago Critics Film Festival Opens on Friday

Aubrey Plaza appears in Emily the Criminal by John Patton Ford, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Low Spark Films.

The 2022 Chicago Critics Film Festival is set to open on Friday and run through Thursday evening at the Music Box Theatre. For ticket information, please click here.

In addition to the following feature films, there are two short film programs taking place on May 14 (12 PM) and May 16 (5 PM). Filmmakers Alyssa Thordarson (After [A Love Story]), Tom Krawcyzk (My Dudus), and Hope Tucker (What Travelers Are Saying About Jornada del Muerto) are scheduled to attend the May 14 program.

While I have yet to watch I Love My Dad, the closing night screening will be a night to remember. You do not want to miss it! Aside from that, I highly recommend checking out Emily the Criminal as Parks and Recreation‘s Audrey Plaza delivers a career-best performance.

Feature Film Selections

2nd CHANCEDirector: Ramin Bahrani | 89 mins | DocumentaryIn 1969 a bankrupt pizzeria owner, Richard Davis, invented the modern-day bulletproof vest. To prove that it worked, he shot himself — point blank — 192 times. Davis then launched Second Chance, which became one of the largest body armor companies in the world. Charming and brash, he directed sensational marketing films, earning him celebrity status among police and gun owners across the country. But the death of a police officer wearing a Second Chance vest catalyzes Davis’ fall, and reveals a man full of contradictions cultivated over decades of reckless behavior. Equally as questionable as he was captivating, Davis saved thousands of lives while endangering exponentially more.Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ramin Bahrani’s feature-length documentary debut continues his fascination with the perilous pursuit of the American Dream as seen through a uniquely individual lens. The film shrewdly juxtaposes Richard Davis’ actions with those of his righteous right-hand man, Aaron Westrick. Unwilling to passively present questionable truths, Bahrani instead lays bare the complexities of one man’s supposed virtue while speaking to the nature of power and impunity in America.Screens Sunday, May 15 at 12pm BEBADirector: Rebeca Huntt | 79 mins | DocumentaryFirst-time feature filmmaker Rebeca “Beba” Huntt undertakes an unflinching exploration of her own identity in the remarkable coming-of-age documentary/cinematic memoir BEBA. Reflecting on her childhood and adolescence in New York City as the daughter of a Dominican father and Venezuelan mother, Hunt Investigates the historical, societal, and generational trauma she’s inherited and ponders how those ancient wounds have shaped her, while simultaneously considering the universal truths that connect us all as humans.Screens Tuesday, May 17 at 5pm BENEDICTIONDirector: Terence Davies | 137 mins Written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Terence Davies, the biopic explores the turbulent life of WWI poet Siegfried Sassoon (Jack Lowden). The writer and soldier was a complex man who survived the horrors of fighting in the First World War and was decorated for his bravery but who became a vocal critic of the government’s continuation of the war when he returned from service. His poetry was inspired by his experiences on the Western Front, and he became one of the leading war poets of the era. Adored by members of the aristocracy as well as stars of London’s literary and stage world, he embarked on affairs with several men as he attempted to come to terms with his homosexuality. At the same time, broken by the horror of war, he made his life’s journey a quest for salvation, trying to find it within the conformity of marriage and religion.Screens Sunday, May 15 at 4:30pmTHE BLIND MAN WHO DID NOT WANT TO SEE TITANICDirector: Teemu Nikki | 82 minsJaakko is blind and disabled; the brightest moments in his day are those on the phone with Sirpa, the woman he loves even though they’ve never met in person. When Sirpa gets difficult news, Jaakko decides he must go to her immediately, even if none of his usual caretakers can accompany him. After all, he only needs the help of five kind strangers in five specific places between home and her…what could go wrong? The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic is an intense, atypical thriller filmed from the perspective of the blind protagonist, a man who’s willing to go through hell to reach his loved one.Screens Monday, May 16 at 10pmBOOGIE NIGHTS 25th Anniversary Screening presented on 35mmDirector: Paul Thomas Anderson | 155 mins From writer/director P.T. Anderson comes the turbulent behind-the-scenes story of an extended family of filmmakers who set out to revolutionize the adult entertainment industry in the seventies. Idealistic producer Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) has always dreamed of elevating his films into an art form. When he discovers young actor Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), Jack begins to turn his dreams into reality. Under the stage name of Dirk Diggler, Eddie soon gives the adult entertainment world a star the likes of which it has never seen. But the rise to fame has its costs, and soon Dirk finds himself sliding down the slippery slope of sex, drugs and violence. The only question: can he get himself back together before it’s too late?Screens Monday, May 16 at 7pmBOTH SIDES OF THE BLADEDirector: Claire Denis | 116 minsWinter in Paris. Both Sides of the Blade tells the tale of a passionate love triangle. Jean (Vincent London) and Sara (Juliette Binoche) have been living together for 10 years. When they first met, Sara was living with François (Grégoire Colin), Jean’s best friend and an admirer from back when he played pro rugby. Jean and Sara love each other. One day, Sara sees François in the street. He does not notice her, but she is overcome by the sensation that her life could suddenly change. François gets back in touch with Jean. For the first time in years. He suggests they start working together again. From here on, things spiral out of control.Screens Sunday, May 15 at 2:00pmBRAM STOKER’S DRACULA 30th Anniversary Screening presented in 4KDirector: Francis Ford Coppola | 128 minsCount Dracula, a 15th-century prince, is condemned to live off the blood of the living for eternity. Young lawyer Jonathan Harker is sent to Dracula’s castle to finalize a land deal, but when the Count sees a photo of Harker’s fiancée, Mina, the spitting image of his dead wife, he imprisons him and sets off for London to track her down.Screens Saturday, May 14 at 11:59pmCHA CHA REAL SMOOTH Director: Cooper Raiff | 107 minsFresh out of college and without a clear life path going forward, 22-year-old Andrew is stuck back at home with his family in New Jersey. But if there’s one thing that belongs on his nonexistent résumé, it’s how to get a party started, which lands him the perfect job of motivational dancing at the bar and bat mitzvahs for his younger brother’s classmates. When Andrew befriends a local mom, Domino, and her daughter, Lola, he finally discovers a future he wants – even if it might not be his own. Cooper Raiff writes, directs and stars alongside Dakota Johnson, Brad Garrett, Leslie Mann and newcomers Vanessa Burghardt and Evan Assante in this tale of unconventional love that brims with emotional honesty.Screens Friday, May 13 at 7pm with filmmaker/star Cooper Raiff scheduled to attend.EMILY THE CRIMINALDirector: John Patton Ford | 93 minsEmily (Aubrey Plaza) is saddled with student debt and locked out of the job market due to a minor criminal record. Desperate for income, she takes a shady gig as a “dummy shopper,” buying goods with stolen credit cards supplied by a handsome and charismatic middleman named Youcef (Theo Rossi). Faced with a series of dead-end job interviews, Emily soon finds herself seduced by the quick cash and illicit thrills of black-market capitalism, and increasingly interested in her mentor Youcef. Together, they hatch a plan to bring their business to the next level in Los Angeles.Screens Saturday, May 14 at 10:00pmFLUX GOURMETDirector: Peter Strickland | 111 minsAt an institute devoted to culinary and alimentary performance, a collective finds themselves embroiled in power struggles, artistic vendettas and gastrointestinal disorders.Screens Wednesday, May 18 at 9:45pmGOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDEDirector: Sophie Hyde | 97Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson), a retired school teacher, is yearning for some adventure, and some sex. Good sex. And she has a plan, which involves hiring a young sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack).Screens Thursday, May 19 at 6pmHOLD YOUR FIRE Director: Stefan Forbes | 93 mins | Documentary Brooklyn, 1973. When Shu’aib Raheem and his friends attempted to steal guns for self-defense, it sparked the longest hostage siege in NYPD history. NYPD psychologist Harvey Schlossberg fought to avert a bloodbath, reform police methods, and save the lives of hostages, police, and the four young Muslim men at the heart of the conflict.Screens Sunday May 15 at 7:15pm with filmmaker Stefan Forbes scheduled to attend I LOVE MY DADDirector: James Morosini | 96 mins Inspired by Writer/Director/Star James Morosini’s true life experience, I Love My Dad follows Chuck (Patton Oswalt), an estranged father who desperately wants to reconnect with his depressive son, Franklin (Morosini). Blocked on social media and concerned for his son’s life, Chuck impersonates a waitress (Claudia Sulewski) online and starts checking in with Franklin. But things begin to spiral when Franklin falls for this imaginary girl and wants nothing more than to meet her in person, as Chuck has inadvertently catfished his own son.Screens Thursday, May 19 at 8:15pm with filmmaker/star James Morosini and actors Patton Oswalt, Amy Landecker, and Claudia Sulewski scheduled to attend INU-OHDirector: Masaaki Yuasa | 98 mins Inu-Oh is born with unique physical characteristics, and the horrified adults cover every inch of his body with garments, including a mask on his face. One day, he meets a boy named Tomona, a blind biwa player, and as Tomona plays a delicate song of tangled fate, Inu-Oh discovers an incredible ability to dance.Inu-Oh and Tomona become business partners and inseparable friends, using their creative gifts to survive on the margins of society, as song after song gain them notoriety and propel them to stardom. Through the songs, Inu-Oh mesmerizes his audiences on stage, and gradually begins to transform into someone of unequaled beauty. But why is Tomona blind? Why was Inu-Oh born with unique characteristics? It is a story about the friendship of Inu-Oh and Tomona, who dance and sing to get to the truth and break each other’s curse.Screens Wednesday May 18 at 5pm A LOVE SONGDirector: Max Walker-Silverman | 81 minsFaye (Dale Dickey) is a lone traveler biding her time fishing, birding and stargazing at a rural Colorado campground as she awaits the arrival of Lito (Wes Studi), a figure from her past who is navigating his own tentative and nomadic journey across the rugged West. Like the country music that has traditionally channeled the heartbreak and resilience of Americans in search of themselves and others — on the road, in the margins, and off the beaten path— writer-director Max Walker-Silverman weaves a spare, lyrical and ultimately joyful refrain out of the wondrous and transformative act of being alone.Screens Saturday, May 14 at 2:30pmMARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ONDirector: Dean Fleischer-Camp | 90Marcel is an adorable one-inch-tall shell who ekes out a colorful existence with his grandmother Connie and their pet lint, Alan. Once part of a sprawling community of shells, they now live alone as the sole survivors of a mysterious tragedy. But when a documentary filmmaker discovers them amongst the clutter of his Airbnb, the short film he posts online brings Marcel millions of passionate fans, as well as unprecedented dangers and a new hope at finding his long-lost family. A beloved character gets his big-screen debut in this hilarious and heartwarming story about finding connection in the smallest corners.Screens Saturday, May 14 at 4:30pmPALM TREES AND POWER LINESDirector: Jamie Dack | 110 minsSeventeen-year-old Lea spends her summer break aimlessly tanning in her backyard with her best friend, tiptoeing around her needy mother, and getting stoned with a group of boys from school. This monotony is interrupted by an encounter with Tom, an older man who promises an alternative to Lea’s unsatisfying adolescent life. But as things progress between them, red flags about Tom’s life begin to surface, and Lea chooses to ignore them. Under Tom’s influence, Lea begins to see her mom as unfit and her friends as a waste of her time. Isolated from those around her, Lea discovers Tom’s true intentions and finds herself in a situation that she never could have imagined.Screens Tuesday, May 17 at 9:45pm PIGGYDirector: Carlota Pereda | 90 minsIn a rural Spanish town, a teen girl’s weight makes her the target of incessant bullying. After fleeing them at the town pool, she stumbles upon her tormentors being kidnapped by a mysterious stranger.Screens Sunday, May 15 at 9:45pm RESURRECTIONDirector: Andrew Semans | 103 minsMargaret’s life is in order. She is capable, disciplined, and successful. Soon, her teenage daughter, who Margaret raised by herself, will be going off to a fine university, just as Margaret had intended. Everything is under control. That is, until David returns, carrying with him the horrors of Margaret’s past.Screens Wednesday, May 18 at 7:15pm SPEAK NO EVILDirector: Christian Tafdrup | 97 minsIn Speak No Evil, on a vacation in Tuscany, two families – one Danish, one Dutch – meet and become fast friends. Months later, the free-spirited Dutch family extends an invitation to the more conservative Danish one for a holiday weekend getaway at their countryside home. However, it doesn’t take long before things gradually get out of hand as the joy of reunion is replaced with misunderstandings. The Dutch hospitality quickly turns unnerving for the Danes, and they find themselves increasingly caught in a web of their own politeness in the face of eccentric…or is it sinister…behavior.Screens Friday, May 13 at 11:59pm  STRAIGHTEN UP AND FLY RIGHTDirectors: Kristen Abate & Steven Tanenbaum | 88 mins20-something New Yorker Kristen (Kristen Abate) lives with a severe case of ankylosing spondylitis (AS), an inflammatory disease that affects the spine, leaving her with chronic pain and a lack of mobility. With dreams of becoming a famous (or at least paid) writer, she currently supports herself as a dogwalker, though she often has trouble picking up after her canine charges and the neighborhood kids make fun of the way she walks. When she gets evicted from her home, fate brings her to a new dogwalking client, Steven (Steven Tanenbaum), who also lives with AS. Recognizing a kindred spirit, Steven takes an interest in her writing, draws her out of her loneliness, and helps her get in touch with greater New York’s disabled and artistic communities. Screens Tuesday, May 17 at 7pm with filmmaker/actor Kristen Abate and filmmaker Steven Tanenbaum scheduled to attend TO LESLIEDirector: Michael Morris  | 122 minsLeslie is a West Texas single mother struggling to provide for her son when she wins the lottery and a chance at a good life. But a few short years later the money is gone and Leslie is on her own, living hard and fast at the bottom of a bottle as she runs from the world of heartbreak she left behind. With her charm running out and with nowhere to go, Leslie returns home. Unwelcome and unwanted by those she wronged, it’s Sweeney, a lonely motel clerk, who takes a chance when no one else will. With his support, Leslie comes face to face with the consequences of her actions, a life of regret, and a second chance to make a good life for her and her son.Screens Saturday, May 14 at 7pm with filmmaker Michael Morris and producer Ceci Cleary scheduled to attend WATCHER Director: Chloe Okuno | 103 minsIn Watcher, Julia (Maika Monroe) joins her husband (Karl Glusman) when he relocates to his family’s native Romania for a new job. Having recently abandoned her acting career, she finds herself frequently alone and unoccupied. One night, people-watching from her picture window, she spots a vague figure in an adjacent building, who seems to be looking back at her. Soon after, while alone at a local movie theater, Julia’s sense of being watched intensifies, and she becomes certain she’s being followed — could it be the same unknown neighbor? Meanwhile, a serial killer known as The Spider stalks the city.Screens Friday, May 13 at 9:30pm

The 2022 Chicago Critics Film Festival runs May 13-19, 2022 at the Music Box Theatre.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.