In January 2006, Oprah Winfrey memorably invited author James Frey on to her daytime TV talk show to publicly castigate him about the veracity of his memoir, A Million Little Pieces.

She had endorsed the harrowing account of addiction as an Oprah's Book Club selection in September the previous year, a validation which propelled the paperback on to the bestsellers list.

When the credibility of his written testimony was challenged by the media, Winfrey defended Frey against detractors until it became clear that he had employed artistic licence to create dramatic arcs in his recollections.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson contemplated incorporating audio from the Winfrey interview at the beginning of her ambitious film, co-written by her husband and lead actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Wisely, she distances herself from the controversy by taking her own artistic liberties to visualise the book's first-person stream of consciousness.

Some of these bold choices pay off - the opening image of James dancing naked around a flat establishes the grim, nihilistic tone and Aaron Taylor-Johnson's unwavering commitment to the role.

A nightmarish root canal procedure without anaesthetic, which was a centrepiece of the book, is terrifying when we can hear the piercing scream of the dentist's drill as it burrows into infected teeth.

Stylistic flourishes abound but Frey's internal conflict and the demons which drive him to self-destruct in a fug of booze and crack are frequently lost in the melee.

Beautiful Boy and Ben Is Back from earlier this year were more conventional in their approach to depicting drug dependency and its aftermath, and the emotional pay-off in both pictures was arguably more satisfying.

James (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) agrees to check into a six-week rehabilitation programme at the behest of his brother Bob (Charlie Hunnam).

He must bare his soul in group therapy sessions and avoid contact with female patients or risk expulsion.

Lingering glances across the cafeteria from Lilly (Odessa Young) test James's resolve as he clashes with clarinet-playing roommate Miles Davis (Charles Parnell) and rejects the touchy-feely approach of staff psychologist Joanne (Juliette Lewis).

"I'm not an addict," he reiterates.

Confrontations with fellow abusers John (Giovanni Ribisi) and Roy (David Dastmalchian) are tempered by a touching bond with resident sage Leonard (Billy Bob Thornton), who takes his sartorial lead from Elvis Presley with a jumpsuit and oversized sunglasses.

Shot in just 20 days on a tight budget, A Million Little Pieces is an impressive feat of directorial will and ingenuity, anchored by Aaron Taylor-Johnson's fearless lead performance.

Thornton snaffles the lion's share of one-liners and Ribisi careens between predatory and pathetic in a memorable shower scene.

Young invests her former prostitute with touching vulnerability.

An erotically charged hallway dance with her leading man is a glorious invention for the screen.

MRS LOWRY & SON (PG) Three stars

Adapted by Martyn Hesford from his acclaimed 2013 stage play, Mrs Lowry & Son is a dour study of Stretford-born painter LS Lowry and the toxic relationship with his ageing, malcontent mother, which almost stifled his artistic ambitions.

The matchstick men and women of his evocative paintings are largely confined to the attic, where Lowry daubed from memory late at night to the persistent hiss of a gas lamp.

It is a lonely, isolating existence but one that seems to fulfil the dutiful son.

"I'm a man who paints, nothing more, nothing less," he confides in the guise of Timothy Spall, who delivered a towering performance as JMW Turner for Mike Leigh and is markedly restrained here for director Adrian Noble.

Like its theatrical predecessor, the film is predominantly a claustrophobic two-hander between the painter and his mother, portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave as a purse-lipped harpy with a boundless capacity to wound with her words.

The verbal onslaught is relentless and our sympathy rests firmly with the long-suffering son as he tends to the matriarch's every whim with a hangdog expression that conceals a steady, gentle simmer of Oedipal rage.

Every evening, Laurence Lowry (Spall) returns home to a terraced house in Pendlebury, Lancashire and his domineering mother Elizabeth (Redgrave).

Throughout the day, while her son toils as a rent collector, Elizabeth marinates in bitterness and resentment, horrified that the debts of her late husband (Michael Keogh) have condemned her to a two-up two-down surrounded by soot-smudged members of the working class.

"I can't abide ugliness. I don't have the constitution for it," she sneers, aiming her pent-up bile at the one person who cooks her dinner, carries her to bed and brushes the knots from her hair.

Laurie's passion for art fuels Elizabeth's ire and she reads aloud a review in the local newspaper of his painting Coming From The Mill, which is dismissed as "ridiculous mannequins in a squalid industrial scene" and "an insult to the people of Lancashire".

Time and time again, Elizabeth attempts to dissuade her son from picking up a paintbrush to focus on more important matters. Like her.

"You'll never leave me, will you?" she pleads.

"No mother... promise," sighs Laurie.

"That's right," she nods, "after all, what woman would have you?"

Mrs Lowry & Son struggles to escape the turpentine fumes of its stage origins, with occasional flashbacks to expand the film's colour-bleached canvas beyond the walls of the family home.

The leads relish the verbal to and fro.

Redgrave makes little effort to disguise her character's displeasure with her current situation - "I haven't been cheerful since 1868, the year of my confirmation" - while Spall suffers each barrage of barbs with wearisome sighs and a stoicism that verges on saintliness.

THE INFORMER (15) Three stars

An ex-convict operates on the right side of the law at terrible personal risk in director Andrea Di Stefano's gritty crime thriller, which is adapted from the novel Three Seconds written by award-winning Swedish duo Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom.

Ex-con Pete Koslow (Joel Kinnaman) is working undercover for corrupt FBI agents Montgomery (Clive Owen) and Wilcox (Rosamund Pike) to bring down a Polish drug lord called The General.

A drug deal goes sour and Koslow exposes a potential buyer as undercover NYPD detective Daniel Gomez (Arturo Castro).

The cop is shot dead and Koslow owes his life to The General.

The ex-con is forced to do the crime lord's bidding by breaking parole so he can head back to Bale Hill Prison to facilitate the flow of narcotics to inmates.

Agents Montgomery and Wilcox exploit Koslow's dire predicament by ordering him to gather evidence of The General's involvement.

If he puts the kingpin behind bars for life, Koslow will earn his freedom.

Unfortunately, NYPD detective Grens (Common) is determined to unmask his colleague's killer.

His investigation threatens to blow Koslow's cover, jeopardising the safety of the jailbird's partner Sofia (Ana de Armas) and young daughter.