FALL drops us into the season for serious movie-going. Most of the best films and performances of the year, many of which will turn up during awards season, are being released now through December. Here are two I can recommend– with lots more to come in the next few weeks!

THE ROAD DANCE is a stirring romance/melodrama, based on a true story, and packs an emotional punch. Based on the 2002 novel by John MacKay, the film falls neatly into familiar narrative territory, but feels alive and fully-inhabited in the hands of writer/director Richie Adams.  It’s the kind of movie I like to curl up with– my cat on my lap and a cup of tea in my hand– set as it is in a misty little village on the cliffs of the outer Scottish Hebrides. The land is wild and remote, but not so remote that it isn’t touched by the world’s strife. WWI looms as well as darker forces which will upend the life of the community and a young woman who dreams of setting out for America.

Kirsty Macleod played by an affecting Hermione Corfield is gentle, smart, and strong, and very close to her younger sister (Ali Fumiko Whitney) and widowed mother (Marvern Christie). Though she draws the attention of a few rambunctious suitors, she falls in love with a bookish poet named Murdo (Will Fletcher) who shares her sensibilities and sense of adventure. They plan to marry–when suddenly he and all the young men of the town are drafted into the war. On the eve of their departure, a traditional road dance is held to send them off, and it is then that the unspeakable happens and Kirsty’s life is shattered.

We immediately understand the contours of the story as it twists and turns itself against the rugged terrain, both the wildly beautiful landscape and the rugged emotional territory Kirsty must navigate as a mystery deepens about that night.  Despite a couple of one-dimensional stock characters, the tale and the topography (captured by cinematographer Petra Korner) held and surprised me from beginning to end. THE ROAD DANCE sensitively observes a time and a place which become at once intimate and universal– with a modern twist. In select theaters and on digital from Music Box Films on October 13. Theatrical details are available online here.

THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE pops like a kernel on a hot stove, and the explosion will make you question your every move in these fraught times. The film is Germany’s submission for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Oscars. New math and P.E. teacher Carla Nowak is confident and in control of her sixth grade class, when a rash of thefts prompts the administration to take measures which Carla feels may be violating her students’ privacy. She decides to take matters into her own hands and find the thief herself. Her well-intentioned method, however, suddenly has consequences she didn’t anticipate and slowly ricochets on her and the larger school community.

The script co-written by director Ilker Catak with Johannes Duncker, thrusts us into a Gordian knot of socio-political dilemmas as the teacher finds herself far outside the neat logic of mathematical proofs, and squarely at the intersection of competing legal rights, the rumor mill, student reporters’ right to know, an administration’s right to act, an immigrant family’s struggle to survive, a colleague’s reputation, and the teacher’s very job and sense of justice.  The school becomes a microcosm of the world at large, and Leonie Benesch as Carla Nowak is the cool center of this hotbed of contemporary conundrums. As she desperately clings to her own sense of right and wrong in the middle of the maelstrom, you’ll find yourself checking your own moral compass for direction. THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE a Sony Pictures Classic. Release date TBD– stay tuned!