Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet star in "Bleeding Heart."

(WOMENSENEWS)–"Bleeding Heart," which opens today, is a tension-filled drama about the relationship between half-sisters who, now in their 20s, find each other after having been raised by different parents and in entirely different circumstances. They have a lot to learn from each other and through each other. Jessica Biel plays Meg, a yoga instructor who searches for her sister Shiva (Zosia Mamet), and finding her, discovers that she’s a sex worker. In trying to free Shiva from her abusive pimp, Meg risks her own safety, as well as her relationships with her adoptive mother, her live-in boyfriend and business partner. It would be easier to back down, but Meg stands her ground in protecting Shiva who needs her — sister or not. "Bleeding Heart" raises women’s relationship questions that aren’t at all easy to answer, and it’s profoundly provocative because it resists the preaching of resolutions. In her second feature film, writer/director Diane Bell delivers a gripping character-driven femme-centric thriller that’s enhanced by terrific performances by the entire cast and superb cinematic qualities. See this film and keep your eyes open for future Bell projects

"The Girl in the Book," writer/director Marya Cohn’s first feature, is a telling tale of child abuse and its impact. When Alice (Emily VanCamp) was an aspiring and talented young writer in high school, she was sexually preyed upon by author Milan Daneker (Michael Nyqvist), who further exploited her by using the indecent incident as fodder for his bestselling novel. Fifteen years later, an anguished Alice is still struggling to overcome her humiliation. She’s looking for love in one night stands and has succumbed to permanent writer’s block. Her unsatisfying job as an underling editor at a New York publishing house goes from meaningless to worse when she’s assigned to work on her former molester’s new book. You might say that the setup is a bit contrived, but the performances are strong and convincing, and the plot leads to a satisfying dramatic denouement of personal transformation.

"The Tainted Veil," a documentary co-directed by Nahla Al Fahad, Mazen al Khayrat and Ovidio Salazar, covers the subject of women covering their heads with the hijab, the headscarf or veil some Muslim women and girls wear. The film traces the tradition of wearing a hijab from ancient times to the present in various cultures around the world. The history lesson is fascinating, as is the commentary about how the hijab influences relationships between women and men. In on-camera interviews, academics and religious leaders talk about the meaning of the hijab, explaining that it is used to veil — and protect — a woman’s soul, the mind and the body. Modern day Muslim women who live in the Middle East, the United States, London, Paris and a wide variety of other locales speak to the comfort provided by the hijab, to their reasons for wearing it and how others react to their practice of covering their heads. Although the film acknowledges political and cultural controversies regarding use of the hijab, clearing pointing out that the hijab has become an identifier that targets Muslim women for discriminatory profiling, it doesn’t actually deliver the views of Muslim and other women who feel the hijab to be an encumbrance. "The Tainted Veil" is a very relevant film, especially in today’s political climate and with the rise of Islamophobia. But while the film addresses an issue of great concern — both practically and symbolically — to women, it would be better and more convincing were it to present a more balanced view.

Stay tuned next week for more December film openers.

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