Ella Taylor

The terrific young actress Elle Fanning has a still, otherworldly beauty and a quizzical air, as if she just wafted in from some other planet and was baffled by the odd ways of Earth. A wise old soul in a supermodel's body, Fanning might not be the intuitive choice to play an unpopular high school girl with songbird ambitions and no threads to match. Turns out she can sing, dance and handle dialogue in both Brit and Polish — all while projecting a chronically introverted Cinderella vibe, with a wild side yearning to break free.

In his first narrative feature, Diane, the critic and documentary filmmaker Kent Jones (Hitchock/Truffaut) comes in praise of older women, the crankier the better. The troubled New England woman at the center of his drama seems at first to embody a familiar type: the fussy old enabler without a life of her own. But Jones proves a loving, if clear-eyed world-builder who invites us into the orbit of a woman muddling through a complicated life, rather than peddling a tactfully edited "senior" identity.

Some mighty fancy millinery plays a key role in the Hungarian film Sunset.

Remember Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network as the callow Harvard undergrad who cooked up a little thingie called Facebook because his girlfriend dumped him? Please welcome back both actor and, more or less, character in The Hummingbird Project, a likably cheeky but rambling and overstuffed hedge-fund romp by Canadian writer-director Kim Nguyen.

After bombing as Grace Kelly, Nicole Kidman is currently on a gratifying roll, stealing scenes as a Southern Christian mom awakening to her gay son's plight in Boy Erased, as a deceptively prim PA to a quadriplegic Bryan Cranston in the upcoming The Upside, and in television's Big Little Lies and Top of the Lake. With any luck, Kidman's golden streak has only hit pause with her turn as a rogue cop in Karyn Kusama's dispiriting Destroyer.

Midway through All Is True, Kenneth Branagh's imaginary wrangle of the troubled last years of William Shakespeare, a young fan approaches the Bard, who has returned to his native Stratford-upon-Avon to lick old wounds and reinsert himself into the family he has neglected for two decades. The eager visitor wants to know how Shakespeare did it — how he understood so deeply what drove the many disparate kinds of people in his plays.

At my all-girls high school in England, history class was basically an ongoing roster of uncivil wars between the Tudors (English) and Stuarts (Scottish) over who would be king of which scept'red British isle. So I knew from bickering royals, though invariably it was all about the men, mostly rascally Henry VIII and his disposable wives, fondly known to us girls as Divorced-Beheaded-Died-Divorced-Beheaded-Survived.

In 1993, twelve-year-old Giuseppe di Matteo was kidnapped and held in brutal captivity to put pressure on his father, a Mafia informer, to stop unburdening himself to prosecutors about the Sicilian mob.

Sicilian Ghost Story, written and directed by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, wraps a bleakly realist account of young Giuseppe's three-year ordeal into a kind of memorial — by way of a love story, which itself unfolds in a fairy tale more Grimm than Disney.

In Postcards From London, a lovely piece of whimsy about gay life in a bygone London, Harris Dickinson plays Jim, an innocent who leaves the wilds of Essex (translation: London suburb often associated with dull-and-boring) for the metropolis in search of fame and adventure. Winding up in a nostalgically refurbished Soho from before the sleek corporate types moved in, the eager teen suffers the usual big city roughing-up. His luck improves when he's hired by The Raconteurs, a group of young male escorts who specialize in brainy after-sex conversation about the arts.

Based on a 2016 memoir by Garrard Conley, Boy Erased is the second movie this year — after last August's The Miseducation of Cameron Post — to focus on so-called gay conversion therapy centers, where LGBTQ teens are sent to be, as their mostly evangelical parents see it, straightened out. Both films are worth your time; both, in their way, are intelligent message movies that refuse to hide their outrage at a repressive practice that, as a coda before the Boy Erased end credits informs, 36 American states still allow.

'Tis the season, in movie-world, to run the family-dysfunction tape on a loop. If you tire easily of snickering variants on Home For the Holidays, let me recommend What They Had, a finely textured family drama deceptively wrapped in that overworked subgenre. I doubt writer-director Elizabeth Chomko even thought of building her impressive debut feature around the reductive term "dysfunction," a noxiously bullying word that feeds the fantasy of a smoothly operative family somewhere out there in Perfectsville, where none of us lives.

Like many in the stand-up world, Nina Geld (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a comedian whom we meet working the edgier comedy clubs of New York City, is angry. When she's not riffing on menstrual blood and other female troubles nobody else wants to talk about, her potty-mouthed monologues are studded with the case against men, which earns her appreciative laughs from young audiences both male and female. Nina is poised, articulate, funny and unsparing — none of which prevents her from throwing up after every performance.

As she moves through middle age, there's a whiff of acid in every Emma Thompson performance that adds a lively bump to the actress's Stateside image as an eternally flowering English Rose. The bracing asperity that juiced Thompson's self-directed turn as a warty governess in Nanny McPhee, as a bigoted headmistress in An Education, as the neurotic Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers in Saving Mr.

For a drama about the capture of one of the most notorious architects of the Holocaust, Chris Weitz's Operation Finale begins with a bit of a caper. A crack team of Mossad agents, on a tip from a young Jewish woman (Haley Lu Richardson), bungle the job by bringing down the wrong Nazi. Shrugging off their error, the unit, headed by Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) forges ahead to snag the real Adolf Eichmann as he's walking home through a leafy Buenos Aires suburb. Needless to say, he's played by Ben Kingsley; so also needless to say, he is seriously unflapped.

In 1978, embarking on a career at the ripe age of 58 that would earn her a raft of literary prizes, the British novelist Penelope Fitzgerald published a wonderfully tragicomic tale, short-listed for the Booker prize, about a 1950s middle-aged war widow who wakes up one day and decides to open a bookstore in her fog-bound East Anglian fishing village. The Bookshop's plot turns on all the locals who mobilize to thwart Florence Green, and a stalwart few who come to her defense.

Pages