Nominated for a 2023 documentary-feature Oscar, “A House Made of Splinters” revisits the same part of eastern Ukraine that Danish director Simon Lereng Wilmont first explored in “The Distant Barking of Dogs,” a 2017 film that centered on a boy and his grandmother, set against the backdrop of war that has gripped the region since 2014. Here, Wilmont’s subject is a shelter for the children of broken families — a sort of halfway house for kids removed from troubled homes while the authorities adjudicate their fates: either an orphanage or return to their parents, who are often struggling with alcoholism. Narrated by a longtime social worker who, along with the shelter’s staff, tries to create a loving refuge for these vulnerable, adorable children, “House” is at times heartbreaking, especially when the cyclical nature of dysfunction becomes clear. As the narrator puts it, “When you’ve worked here a long time, you start to notice a pattern” — meaning that many of the shelter’s young residents will one day grow up to repeat the behaviors they saw in childhood. It’s a bleak outlook, one driven home by a scene in which a child is shown reading aloud from “The Scorpion and the Frog,” the famous Russian animal fable about human nature and mutually assured destruction. Unrated. Available on multiple streaming platforms. Contains strong language, underage smoking and mature thematic elements, including alcoholism. In Ukrainian and Russian with subtitles. 87 minutes. — M.O.
In “A Little White Lie,” handyman Shriver (Michael Shannon) lives the life of a hermit: He shares his small New York apartment with a cat, is always depressed and doesn’t even own a credit card. He also happens to share the last name of a famously reclusive author, who left the spotlight 25 years ago, after writing one acclaimed novel. (Conveniently, only one shadowy photo of him exists.) So when literature professor Simone Cleary (Kate Hudson) — who has been casting a wide net to find the author, writing to anyone with his name — gets a letter accepting her invitation to speak at her university, what an opportunity for a mix-up. Based on a 2013 novel by Chris Belden, the film appears to be a familiar tale of mistaken identity, but writer-director Michael Maren puts us inside Shriver’s head, as the supposed author struggles to separate reality from imagination. As the literary festival unfolds and fans of the novelist speak of his great reputation, one wonders when Shriver’s ruse will be exposed, or if the handyman might really be the author in hiding. Through “Shriver’s” journey of self-discovery and self-invention — with the protagonist settling into the role people assume he deserves — the film hints that there’s much more to this mystery man than he’s willing to disclose. As Cleary puts it, a writer is allowed to be who they are. R. Available on multiple streaming platforms. Contains strong language. 101 minutes. — O.D.
The documentary “Boycott” profiles three subjects — a speech pathologist from Texas, an Arizona public defender and an Arkansas newspaper publisher — who have sued their states after laws were passed requiring them to sign a pledge saying they won’t participate in boycotts of Israel in order to receive a government contract. According to the Moveable Fest, the individual stories pale in comparison to director Julia Bacha’s larger point: “Policy wonks have taken advantage of the influence of lobbyists and state legislatures filled with politicians too lazy to actually read what they’re signing into law, using templates from one state to another that gradually erode individual rights such as free speech before anyone can take notice.” Unrated. Available on multiple streaming platforms. 73 minutes.
Malin Akerman plays a single woman whose desire to become a mother leads her to resort to subterfuge in her search for a sperm donor in the comedy “The Donor Party,” also starring Jerry O’Connell and Rob Corddry. Unrated. Available on multiple streaming platforms. 93 minutes.
Nominated for a Palme d’Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, “Still the Water” is a romantic coming-of-age tale, set on a subtropical Japanese island, in which a 16-year-old boy (Nijiro Murakami) and his girlfriend (Junko Abe) find a human corpse floating in the sea. The Hollywood Reporter calls the rendering of the characters “simplistic (maybe even artless),” but says the “lush rural imagery and cryptic emotions will probably captivate [director Naomi] Kawase’s international fan base.” Unrated. Available on multiple streaming platforms. In Japanese with subtitles. 121 minutes.
Inspired by events in the life of writer-director Alex Heller, “The Year Between” tells the story of a college sophomore, played by the filmmaker, who is forced to move back in with her parents (Steve Buscemi and J. Smith-Cameron) after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Film Threat says the movie “culminates with a beautifully emotional scene, but the journey to get there is a challenge, much like for those who are suffering from a number of mental health issues.” Unrated. Available on multiple streaming platforms. 94 minutes.