Changeling ( MA15+): This exceptional film from Clint Eastwood tells an extraordinary true story from Los Angeles in the late 1920s. Angelina Jolie is convincing as a single mother whose beloved son disappears in the strangest circumstances, made even stranger when the local police attempt to impose on her a boy who, she knows, is not her son at all. Compelling. — David Stratton
Identity crisis: Angelina Jolie in Changeling
( M): This brave and absorbing film, directed by Gus Van Sant, traces the career of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in the US ( in San Francisco in 1977). Sean Penn ( with a fine supporting cast) gives the performance of the year: passionate, intense and utterly captivating, his exuberance tinged with intimations of tragedy. — Evan Williams
( M): Clint Eastwood’s masterly drama explores the limited world of an elderly, retired bluecollar worker, played by the director, who loathes the way his world is changing but during the course of the film experiences forms of redemption and reconciliation. A deceptively simple film made by the last of the screen classicists. — D. S.
( M): Based on a novel by Richard Yates, directed by Sam Mendes and reuniting Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time since , this film comes with high expectations, so it’s no slight to say it doesn’t quite match them. A story about a young married couple dissatisfied with their life in the American suburbs in the 1950s, it is beautifully executed with a strong finish. — Kerrie Murphy
( M): At the centre of this sombre film by Bryan Singer is the performance of Tom Cruise as Count von Stauffenberg, the man who led the failed plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. The supporting cast of mainly British character actors ( Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy) adds to the distinction of its serious approach. — D. S.
( PG): Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin are orphan siblings who go to great lengths to ensure their foster parents remain ignorant of their dog, Friday. They turn an abandoned hotel into a five-star dog refuge, full of contraptions. Predictable, but the pooches have plenty of charm. — K. M.
( MA15+): An astounding comeback for actor Mickey Rourke and director Darren Aronofsky ( ). The boxing drama about the fighter having one last crack at the title is transferred to the strange world of professional wrestling and in this moving story, Rourke is a lonely man seeking the love of two women. — D. S.