2 Movies Like The Portable Door (2023) On SHOWTIME

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The agonizing tug of war between dogma and desire is sharply illustrated in writer-director Laurel Parmet’s feature debut, set inside the claustrophobic confines of a conservative Christian community in Kentucky. Seventeen-year-old Jem (Eliza Scanlen) is at the age her elders believe is the right time to start thinking about a lifelong partner — a choice they’ve pretty much already made for her by setting her up with the pastor’s youngest son. But it's his brooding older brother, married youth leader Owen (Lewis Pullman), who catches Jem’s eye.

The attraction is returned — but, while The Starling Girl does subtly indicate the toxicity of their relationship, it never lets this point eclipse either the more interesting coming-of-age story at its heart or its keen exploration of the wholesale damage that the cult-like church has done to all of its congregants (including Owen). While some of those threads threaten to distract the film’s focus away from its greatest strengths at times, the anguish of that central tussle between Jem's burgeoning sexuality and her otherwise rigidly controlled existence is brought to aching life by sensitive writing and direction and a brilliantly complex lead performance — qualities that ultimately win out to let The Starling Girl fly.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Austin Abrams, Claire Elizabeth Green, Eliza Scanlen, Jessamine Burgum, Jimmi Simpson, K.J. Baker, Kieran Sitawi, Kyle Secor, Lewis Pullman, Wrenn Schmidt

Director: Laurel Parmet

This documentary follows eight men whose convictions were recently overturned based on exonerating evidence. Proven innocent after many years in the US prison system, they are suddenly free to return to the communities they had been expelled from, without any of the usual obligations (or resources) associated with parole or probation.

The exonerations featured in the film are largely thanks to the work of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization that works to free the wrongfully convicted through DNA testing and criminal justice system reform. While their work is central to the documentary, it's also clear that these failings of the system represent only the tip of the iceberg. What makes the movie unforgettable, though, is the exonerees' struggle to make sense of what remains possible in their lives, to embrace hope and reconcile with profound loss. All in all, it is as much a study of the deep costs of injustice as it is one of buoyant resilience.

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama

Director: Jessica Sanders