Frozen River. A new director, Courtney Hunt, and an experienced actress, Melissa Leo, present a well-crafted and absorbing story set on the frozen St. Lawrence River. Leo plays a woman who smuggles aliens in her car across the river into New York to get money for her children, but the film is art, not mere expose. (Reviewed 8/27/08)

I Served the King of England. The Czech director, Jiri Menzel, follows the adventures of a young waiter just before, during, and after World War Two, as he survives, prospers, is jailed, and then continues otherwise. Full of Menzel’s lovely lyric touches, which also serve to lubricate his satire of servile acceptances. (9/3/08)

Man on Wire. Unique and unexpectedly thrilling. A documentary, sort of, about Philippe Petit, the tightrope performer, who walked between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. Not the bare record of a circus act, this is about a man who conceived his feat as a connection with space and the sky (8/27/08)

Momma’s Man. A young married man visits his parents in New York and finds it hard to return to his family in California. It is not parental warmth that keeps him but a return to this place where he once made important choices, now with the knowledge that the time for choices is over. Acute and moving. (9/3/08)

Stanley Kauffmann is The New Republic's film critic.

By Stanley Kauffmann