On the North Shore of Long Island, not far from where I grew up, sits the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. A place of scientific legend, it’s where Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA, which governs the inner workings of cells. It’s also a place of family legacy; my grandmother worked at “the lab,” as we call it, and my aunt still works there. In high school, my sister interviewed for a position, and family lore has it that Dr. Watson walked by the open door of the office during her interview.

As a middle-aged woman navigating the back nine of life, I’ve grown increasingly used to feeling irrelevant in the face of new technological products, performance events, music, books and movies that I generally find uninteresting and quickly realize are not designed to speak to me anyway. So what a wonderful surprise it was to come upon Mia Madre, the new Italian film by Nanni Moretti about a single, female film director named Margherita (Margherita Buy) maneuvering her way through middle age. While Margherita struggles to make a socially conscious movie about violent labor-management confrontations in a factory, her personal life is fraught with sorrows: her mother lies dying in a hospital, her latest romantic relationship just fizzled and her adolescent daughter is floundering.

In a summer film season filled with duds and needless sequels, the best exception by far has to be Kubo and the Two Strings. This stop-motion animated standout was expertly produced by Laika Studios, released through Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal, and is currently still in theaters—which is good for you. Kubo could put a nice finish on a lackluster season’s doldrums.

Solace, the latest neo-noir police thriller from Afonso Poyart, has been called a cross between The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. Anthony Hopkins stars as John Clancy, a doctor with psychic abilities who, in a sort of good guy role inversion of Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter character, comes out of retirement to help solve a string of related murders. Gradually, Clancy learns that the serial killer, Charles Ambrose (Colin Farrell), is a clairvoyant himself—and a better one than Clancy at that. The challenge then becomes to predict the other’s movements before the other can predict his. In other words, it’s like Hannibal Lecter is chasing himself.

Eowyn Ivey’s second novel, To the Bright Edge of the World, is an ambitious book. Set in the untamed Alaskan wilds at the end of the 19th century, the story follows the expedition of Colonel Allen Forrester, a decorated war hero, and his small group of men as they navigate a seemingly impassable river—while simultaneously exploring the challenges that face Forrester’s wife, Sophie, as she waits more than a year for her husband’s return. It’s a clever and fertile juxtaposition—an explorer’s struggles in the wide-open wilderness, and the struggles of his independent young wife back home, in the closed-off, socially restrictive world of 1880s Army barracks life.