Smart People ( M): Smart script, smart cast, smart comedy. Dennis Quaid plays a grieving literature professor who finds mature- age solace with former student Sarah Jessica Parker. Noam Murro’s debut feature is this year’s most sophisticated entertainment, aided by strong support from Ellen Page ( Juno ) and Thomas Haden Church ( Sideways ). — Evan Williams
The Edge of Heaven ( Auf der anderen Seite) ( M): This emotionally draining film from Turkish- German writerdirector Fatih Akin is an up- to- the- minute examination of cultural and religious divides. The beautifully structured story involves six characters: three parents and three children, four of them Turkish, two German. It’s impeccably acted and deeply compassionate. — David Stratton
Gone Baby Gone ( MA15+): An engrossing, deeply moving adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel about the search for a four- year- old girl in the mean streets of Boston. Ben Affleck directed this supremely bleak, sinuously plotted story of vice and corruption, with his brother Casey superb as the private detective working with anguished police chief Morgan Freeman. — E. W.
Street Kings ( MA15+): Keanu Reeves is a racist killer- cop who also happens to be the hero of this slickly made but morally indefensible crime film. Working from a deeply cynical story by James Ellroy, director David Ayer handles the wall- to- wall violence with confidence, but the film is depressing in its apparent celebration of police violence. — D. S.
Nim’s Island ( PG): A rollicking outdoor adventure in which Jodie Foster plays a shy author searching for one of her adoring young readers ( Abigail Breslin) stranded on a remote island. Shot in Queensland and based on Wendy Orr’s novel, the film has a naive exuberance that will conquer reservations about plot and character. — E. W.
The Spiderwick Chronicles ( PG): An exceptional cast, including the talented Freddie Highmore, and fine production values give some distinction to this attempt to combine a fantastic subject involving fairies and goblins with a realistic tale of children whose parents have separated. The condensation of five short books works well. — D. S.
Lars and the Real Girl ( PG): In this strangely touching comedy from USbased Australian director Craig Gillespie, a loner ( Ryan Gosling) falls in love with a life- sized sex doll and wins the hearts of a small community. A brave idea, with some insight and tenderness, but too much repetition, too many laboured jokes and a weak ending. — E. W.
The Secret of the Grain ( La Graine et le Mulet) ( M): French director Abdellatif Kechiche’s film about the lives of a North African Arab family in France is distinguished by Habib Boufares’s deeply affecting performance as a retrenched dock worker seeking a new life in business. This humane, beautiful film is marred by long digressions. — E. W.
Professed love: Quaid and Parker