The New Year is just around the corner, but there’s plenty to look forward to before we ring in 2022. Besides holiday-themed content, December will also mark the release of an Oscar-nominated actress’ critically acclaimed feature directorial debut and the fourth installment of a sci-fi blockbuster franchise.
Kicking off the month are Christin Baker’s “Christmas at the Ranch,” (December 1), a queer rom-com about a woman who falls for a ranch hand, and Camille Griffin’s “Silent Night” (December 3), a dark comedy led by Keira Knightley that sees old friends reuniting to celebrate Christmas ahead of the impending apocalypse.
Debbie Lum’s “Try Harder!” (December 3) and Camilla Nielsson’s “President” (December 17) are among the docs set for release this month. The former follows Ivy League hopefuls at an elite San Francisco high school, and the latter centers on Nkululeko Sibanda, an anti-corruption politician who ran in Zimbabwe’s 2018 presidential election.
Olivia Colman-starrer “The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal’s award-winning adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel of the same name, finally drops this month, December 17. The pic sees the Academy Award nominee stepping behind the camera to tell the story of a professor on vacation who gets swept away by old memories after meeting a mother and daughter. Set for release the same day are Charlotte Sieling’s “Margrete – Queen of the North,” a period drama that tells the story of Denmark’s Queen Margrete, who risks jeopardizing a critical political alliance when a conspiracy rocks her kingdom, and Lauren Hadaway’s “The Novice,” a coming-of-age story about a queer college freshman who joins her university’s rowing team.
Last but not least, Lana Wachowski is back — and bringing Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus along with her — with “The Matrix Resurrections” (December 22).
Here are the women-centric, women-directed, and women-written films debuting this December. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.
“Christmas at the Ranch” – Directed by Christin Baker; Written by Christin Baker and Julie Anton (Available on Tello)
Raised by her grandmother (Lindsay Wagner) after the death of her parents, urban power broker Haley (Laur Allen) hasn’t been back to her family’s Nashville ranch in years, but is summoned by her brother in a last-ditch effort to save their beloved land from the bank. When she reluctantly arrives just prior to Christmas, her introduction to ranch hand Kate (Amada Righetti) goes terribly awry. But now they must put their differences aside and band together to save the homestead— and perhaps discover that finding love isn’t always where (or who) you expect.
“Green Snake” (Available on Netflix)
While trying to free her sister from Fahai’s clutches, Xiao Qing (Xiaoxi Tang) winds up in a dystopian city and meets a mysterious man who can’t recall his past life.
“Badland Doves” (Available on VOD)
When masked men burst into the Silva family’s cabin in the Old West, gunning them all down as they sit at their dinner table, daughter Regina (Jessica Y. Martin) is the only survivor of the grisly attack. Learning how to handle a gun, Regina hits the trail to seek justice that eludes her for far too long. But when she takes a job at a brothel where a prostitute has recently been brutally murdered, she realizes they are seeking the same man, Pete Chalmers. However, the town is run by Pete’s father — and the local sheriff and town leaders are not only refusing to help but are protecting him. Along with the madam, Victoria (Sandy Penny), and the other ladies of the house, Cora (Michelle Nuquay) and Ekta (Elizabeth Selby), these girls are out for revenge and they’re up to the fight.
“The Scary of Sixty First” – Directed by Dasha Nekrasova, Written by Dasha Nekrasova and Madeline Quinn (In Theaters; Available on VOD December 24)
While out apartment hunting, college pals Noelle (Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown) stumble upon the deal of a lifetime: a posh duplex on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But soon after moving in, a more sinister picture of the apartment emerges when a mysterious woman arrives and claims the property used to belong to the infamous and recently-deceased Jeffrey Epstein. With this news, Noelle becomes obsessed with the visitor—to the point of infatuation. As the pair plunge deeper into the conspiracies of the Epstein case, Addie falls into her own bizarre state: a pseudo-possession complete with inexplicable fits of age-regressed sexual mania. As they peel back on these strange occurrences, the truth reveals itself to be more twisted than they could have ever imagined.
“Silent Night” – Written and Directed by Camille Griffin (In Theaters and Available on AMC+)
A cozy house in the English countryside. The tree has been lovingly decorated. A grand feast is being prepared. Over the sound system, Michael Bublé croons about holiday sweaters. Nell (Keira Knightley), Simon (Matthew Goode), and their boy Art (Roman Griffin Davis) are ready to welcome friends and family for what promises to be a perfect Christmas gathering. Perfect except for one thing: everyone is going to die.
“She Had a Dream” (Documentary) – Directed by Raja Amari (In Theaters and Virtual Cinemas)
Ghofrane, 25, is a young Black Tunisian woman. A committed activist who speaks her mind, she embodies Tunisia’s current political upheaval. As a victim of racial discrimination, Ghofrane decides to go into politics. We follow her extraordinary path, ranging from acting on her ambition to be in politics to disillusion. Through her attempts to persuade both close friends and complete strangers to vote for her, her campaign reveals the many faces of a country seeking to forge a new identity.
“Wolf” – Written and Directed by Nathalie Biancheri (In Theaters)
Believing he is a wolf trapped in a human body, Jacob (George MacKay) eats, sleeps, and lives like a wolf – much to the shock of his family. When he’s sent to a clinic, Jacob and his animal-bound peers are forced to undergo increasingly extreme forms of ‘curative’ therapies. However once he meets the mysterious Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp), and as their friendship blossoms into an undeniable infatuation, Jacob is faced with a challenge: will he renounce his true self for love.
“Try Harder!” (Documentary) – Directed by Debbie Lum (In Theaters)
San Francisco’s Lowell High, one of the best public schools in the country, draws high achievers— nearly 70 percent Asian Americans–from across the city into a fiercely competitive universe. The camera follows seniors through the hallways and into classrooms as the pressure intensifies to impress admissions officers at elite universities with their report cards, test scores, and overall awesomeness. The students proudly own their identity as nerds and tell their stories with candor and humor despite the stress. Will they achieve their dreams? What happens if they fail?
“Benedetta“ (In Theaters; Available on VOD December 21)
A 17th-century nun in Italy suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions. She is assisted by a companion, and the relationship between the two women develops into a romantic love affair.
“Mixtape” – Directed by Valerie Weiss (Available on Netflix)
On the eve of Y2K, orphaned 12-year-old Beverly (Gemma Brooke Allen) discovers a broken mixtape crafted by her teen parents. Raised by her grandmother (Julie Bowen)—who struggles talking about her late daughter—Beverly sees the mixtape as a chance to finally learn more about her parents.
“Home” – Written and Directed by Franka Potente (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
The film tells the story of Marvin Hacks (jake McLaughlin) coming home after more than 20 years in prison, who will soon find out that, even after two decades, his small American hometown has not forgotten the atrocity he committed. Despite the confrontation and hostility from the locals, Marvin will do what it takes to win back his place in society. He is welcomed back to his shabby, run-down family home by his terminally ill mother, Bernadette (Kathy Bates) and her male nurse and companion, Jayden (Lil Rel Howery).
“Love It Was Not” (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Maya Sarfaty (Available on VOD)
A young Jewish woman named Helena Citron is taken to Auschwitz, where she develops an unlikely romantic relationship with Franz Wunsch, a high-ranking SS officer. Thirty years later, a letter arrives from Wunsch’s wife asking Helena to testify on Wunsch’s behalf. Faced with an impossible decision, Helena must choose: will she help the man who brutalized so many lives, but saved hers?
“Back of the Moon” – Written by Libby Dougherty and Angus Gibson (In Theaters)
A powerful gang leader in a Johannesburg ghetto decides that he will fight to the death for his home rather than face police relocation, but fate thrusts a beautiful singer, whom he has loved from a distance, into his orbit.
“Him & Her” – Written by Independence Hall and Íce Mrozek (In Theaters)
Crossed phone lines in 1989 lead to a life-changing conversation between two strangers, who eventually meet in an unusual way.
“The Second” – Directed by Mairi Cameron (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
The persona of a celebrated author is threatened when her best friend and muse reveals the dark secret behind her first novel’s provenance, igniting an incendiary tale of sex, lies, and betrayal.
“The Wishing Tree” – Directed by Laura Adamo; Written by Laura Adamo, Dominic Auld, and Stephen Chambers (Available on VOD)
Broken by a lifetime of disappointment and pain, Julia (Laura Adamo) leaves behind her crumbling marriage and sets off alone on an arduous hiking expedition in a quest for answers, healing, and peace — searching for the fabled Wishing Tree, believed to bring good fortune to those who come to ask. On the trail, Julia encounters Caleb (Sebastien Roberts) and Ryan (Altair Vincent) lost in the woods, both struggling with their own demons of denied sexuality and addiction. Thrown together unexpectedly, they embark on a soul-searching journey of transformation, discovering that hope is sometimes found in the most unlikely ways.
“Fatal Distraction” (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Susan Morgan Cooper (Available on VOD)
Inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning article in the Washington Post, “Fatal Distraction” tells the untold story of the high-profile Georgia murder trial of Justin Ross Harris following the hot car death of his toddler son in 2014.
“The Hating Game” – Written by Christina Mengert (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
Based on the best-selling book, “The Hating Game” tells the story of ambitious good girl Lucy Hutton (Lucy Hale) and her cold, efficient work nemesis, Joshua Templeton (Austin Stowell). Committed to achieving professional success without compromising her ethics, Lucy ultimately embarks on a ruthless game of one-upmanship against Josh, a rivalry that is increasingly complicated by her mounting attraction to him.
“Portal Runner” – Directed by Cornelia Duryée (Available on VOD)
When 15-year-old Nolan (Sloane Morgan Siegel) discovers a secreted family legacy and a portal that enables him to travel to parallel worlds, it’s a young boy’s dream come true — until it becomes a nightmare when it becomes clear that he’s being pursued across the ages by an evil force. When he becomes stranded on Christmas in an alternate timeline with his quirky family and a rebellious and petulant older sister he’s never met before, he realizes Mae (Elise Eberle) may be the key to defeating his adversary and must enlist her help fast — before it’s too late for them all.
“Back to the Outback” – Directed by Clare Knight and Harry Cripps (Available on Netflix)
Tired of being locked in a reptile house where humans gawk at them like they’re monsters, a group of Australia’s deadliest creatures plot a daring escape from their zoo to the Outback.
“France“ (In Theaters)
In “France,” a satirical drama set in contemporary Paris, Léa Seydoux stars as France de Meurs, a seemingly unflappable superstar TV journalist whose career, homelife, and psychological stability are turned upside down after she carelessly drives into a young delivery man on a busy street. This unexpected eruption of reality triggers a series of self-reckonings as well as a strange romance that proves impossible to shake. As France attempts to to slow down and retreat into a simpler, anonymous life, her fame continues to pursue her. Starting out as a tragicomic satire of the news media, writer-director Bruno Dumont’s provocative new film spirals out into something darker as it examines the difficulty of maintaining one’s sense of self in a corrosive culture.
“Agnes“ (In Theaters)
A nun’s disturbing behavior sparks rumors of demonic possession at a remote convent. When a priest in waiting and his disillusioned mentor are sent to investigate, their methods backfire, leaving a wake of terror and trauma.
“The Lost Daughter” – Written and Directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal (In Theaters; Available on Netflix December 31)
Alone on a seaside vacation, Leda (Olivia Colman) becomes consumed with a young mother and daughter as she watches them on the beach. Unnerved by their compelling relationship, (and their raucous and menacing extended family), Leda is overwhelmed by her own memories of the terror, confusion, and intensity of early motherhood. An impulsive act shocks Leda into the strange and ominous world of her own mind, where she is forced to face the unconventional choices she made as a young mother and their consequences. Maggie Gyllenhaal makes her directorial debut from a script she adapted from the novel by Elena Ferrante. “The Lost Daughter” also stars Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Mescal, and Dagmara Dominczyk.
“The Novice” – Written and Directed by Lauren Hadaway (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
Isabelle Fuhrman plays Alex Dall, a queer college freshman who joins her university’s rowing team and undertakes an obsessive physical and psychological journey to make it to the top varsity boat, no matter the cost. Intent on outperforming her teammates, Alex pushes herself to her limits—and beyond, alienating everyone around her in the name of success.
“Margrete – Queen of the North” – Directed by Charlotte Sieling; Written by Charlotte Sieling, Jesper Fink, and Maya Ilsøe (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
The year is 1402. Margrete (Trine Dyrholm) has achieved what no man has managed before. She has gathered Denmark, Norway and Sweden into a peace-oriented union, which she single handedly rules through her young, adopted son, Erik (Morten Hee Andersen). The union is beset by enemies, however, and Margrete is therefore planning a marriage between Erik and an English princess. An alliance with England should secure the union’s status as an emerging European power but a breathtaking conspiracy is under way that can tear Margrete and all she believes in apart.
“President“ (Documentary) – Directed Camilla Nielsson (In Theaters)
When Robert Mugabe was removed from power, Zimbabwe military leaders promised they would not seize control for themselves but would ensure democracy in a national election. Against a backdrop of economic crisis, food shortages, and political violence, the stakes could not be higher. Working to defeat the ruling party, which has controlled Zimbabwe since independence, is the young and charismatic Nelson Chamisa, who draws comparisons to a young Nelson Mandela, in expressing the country’s utmost desire to be “led” and not “ruled.” After decades of a corrupt group clinging to power using any tool available—legal or not—can a free, fair, and transparent election be truly possible? As the follow-up to her widely acclaimed “Democrats,” Camilla Nielsson brings viewers into the heart of the struggle for power with stunningly close access and unhesitating courage, in a nation closely monitored by the entire world. “President” is a riveting and epic reminder that, while individuals and their specific ideals may differ, the fight for democracy is never-ending and of profound significance everywhere.
“Nightmare Alley” – Written by Kim Morgan and Guillermo del Toro (In Theaters)
When charismatic but down-on-his-luck Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) endears himself to clairvoyant Zeena (Toni Collette) and her has-been mentalist husband Pete (David Strathairn) at a traveling carnival, he crafts a golden ticket to success, using this newly acquired knowledge to grift the wealthy elite of 1940s New York society. With the virtuous Molly (Rooney Mara) loyally by his side, Stanton plots to con a dangerous tycoon (Richard Jenkins) with the aid of a mysterious psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) who might be his most formidable opponent yet.
“Cyrano” – Written by Erica Schmidt (One Week Awards Qualifying Run in LA)
Award-winning director Joe Wright envelops moviegoers in a symphony of emotions with music, romance, and beauty in “Cyrano,” re-imagining the timeless tale of a heartbreaking love triangle. A man ahead of his time, Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) dazzles whether with ferocious wordplay at a verbal joust or with brilliant swordplay in a duel. But, convinced that his appearance renders him unworthy of the love of a devoted friend, the luminous Roxanne (Haley Bennett), Cyrano has yet to declare his feelings for her — and Roxanne has fallen in love, at first sight, with Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.).
“The Matrix Resurrections” – Directed by Lana Wachowski; Written by Lana Wachowski, Aleksandar Hemon, and David Mitchell (In Theaters and Available on HBO Max)
Plagued by strange memories, Neo’s (Keanu Reeves) life takes an unexpected turn when he finds himself back inside the Matrix.
“The Velvet Queen“ (Documentary) – Directed by Marie Amiguet; Written by Marie Amiguet, Vincent Munier, and Sylvain Tesson (In Theaters)
Amongst unexplored and inaccessible valleys lies one of the last sanctuaries of the wild world, where rare and undiscovered fauna lives. Vincent Munier, one of the world’s most renowned wildlife photographers takes the adventurer and novelist Sylvain Tesson (“In the Forest of Siberia”) with him on his latest mission. For several weeks, they’ll explore these valleys searching for unique animals and try to spot the snow leopard, one of the rarest and most difficult big cats to approach.
“Parallel Mothers“ (In Select Theaters)
Two women, Janis (Penélope Cruz) and Ana (Milena Smit), cross paths in a hospital room where they are going to give birth. Both are single and became pregnant by accident. Janis, middle-aged, doesn’t regret it and she is exultant. The other, Ana, an adolescent, is scared, repentant, and traumatized. Janis tries to encourage her while they move like sleepwalkers along the hospital corridors. The few words they exchange in these hours will create a very close link between the two, which by chance develops and complicates, and changes their lives in a decisive way.
“Memoria“ (In Select Theaters)
A Scottish woman (Tilda Swinton), after hearing a loud “bang” at daybreak, begins experiencing a mysterious sensory syndrome while traversing the jungles of Colombia.