Ella Taylor

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, a warmly absorbing new documentary by British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, opens with an image of a beautiful young Norwegian woman steering a sailboat off the sun-soaked Greek island of Hydra. The footage, which was shot by famed documentarian and Broomfield mentor D.A. Pennebaker on a visit to the island in the 1960s, recurs from slightly different angles throughout the film.

The rising Irish actress Jessie Buckley, who plays an aspiring Scottish country singer in the beguiling new film Wild Rose, is small and scrappy with hot brown eyes and a mane of chestnut hair tossed into a rough ponytail. Buckley has bags of pugnacious charisma and a soaring, throaty singing voice tempered with enough vulnerability to make us want to hold her close even as the screw-up she offers us drives everyone in her orbit up the wall.

Elegies for a dead or dying San Francisco lie thick on the ground, but a ravishing new film made by two friends who grew up there offers a loving elegy for the city's black community.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is about a man trying to reclaim a house. It's also about reclaiming the history of the Fillmore district, a neighborhood dubbed the Harlem of the West whose black families were pushed out to the city's outer margins long before Google buses rolled in to drive up prices and exile artists and oddballs (see Tales of the City) of all stripes.

In Ritesh Batra's new film, Photograph, a villager scrabbling to make a living on the streets of Mumbai falls for a well-heeled young stranger whom he's persuaded to pose as his fiancée in order to please his grandmother. That hook is a durable staple of Hollywood and Bollywood movies alike, and both industries leave a strong footprint on Batra's mildly arthouse love stories. If you've seen the director's genial, if skin-deep 2014 hit The Lunchbox, you'll know him as a storyteller who's preoccupied with romance across social and geographical divides.

"I'm here to die," cancer patient Martha (Diane Keaton) announces to a boosterish reception committee as she arrives at the Georgia retirement community where she plans to end her days. Martha is a lifelong single who has accrued little in the way of family or friends. Now, having refused all treatment and polished off her own estate sale, she expects no fireworks (hold that thought, though) from her imminent demise at Sun Springs, a pricey pastel village dotted with semiotically resonant golf carts, water aerobics, and funeral buffets.

In Non-Fiction, five characters in search of renewed authorship sit around in more or less fetching Paris locales, holding forth on the state of literature and publishing in the digital age. Will e-readers, and online chatter kill the book as we know it? Do texting and tweeting count as writing? Can fiction survive the age of confessional memoir? Who owns the written word anyway?

The opioid crisis looms large over Little Woods, a modest but intensely empathetic first film by writer–director Nia DaCosta. But you won't see lurid footage of bewildered tots hovering near the prone bodies of parents immobilized by Oxycontin. Instead, the movie draws its drama from the underground economy in which the prescription drug crisis thrives, and the perpetual state of emergency lived by residents of former boomtowns faded into ghost towns by recession or corporate flight.

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.

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