Labour Day: Winslet’s brilliance shines through

Labour DayHOWEVER much you protest to the contrary, it is the desire of every man, woman and child to find love and affection wherever it may lie in this world marred by extremists attacking schools in Nigeria, or Ukraine being on the verge of civil war with Russia. According to reports, at least. The job of any reputable arts department is to provide an ointment and release to the morbidity of other news.

So, here is a review of a film about an escaped convict serving 18 years for murder, a depressed mother and a confused adolescent son to lift to gloom. No, I’m not joking. This formula actually works.

“Based on true events” is a phrase banded about by a plethora of film directors in the modern era. Hollywood cannot get enough of inspiring audiences with stories, albeit true, contorted by cinematic licence to ensure the most favourable presentation on screen.

Let it be known that Kate Winslet is the best actress of her generation, and a British gem to be cherished during this Indian Summer of a career. Winslet plays her roles with such emotional rawness that her characters jump through the screen to grab you. The best in this art have mastered the ability to live and act in the moment whilst on set. In 2011 Winslet played a very similar role in the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce, in which she played the title role. Winslet’s mastery of accents will ensure that she stays high on the list of desired actresses as directors and producers start to cast their leading lady.

Winslet’s brilliance

Winslet resurrected her similar role, once again playing a troubled mother coping with the pressures of life that are so often hidden from view. Winslet has a glow on screen that makes everybody else look better even if they are not particularly special in their own right. Brolin’s last film was a failed remake of a Japanese film Oldboy, but in this picture he is forced by Winslet’s brilliance to raise his game and, arguably, put in the best and certainly the most sensitive performance of his career.

On set it is easy to imagine the English darling Winslet guiding Gattlin Griffith through his lines, being a maternal figure both whilst the camera is rolling and whilst it is not. Griffith displays maturity beyond his years, as he has the talent to act without saying a word, because it is all in the face, the eyes, the corners of the mouth.

The film begins with a gorgeous montage of long, winding American roads, which filled this reviewer with dread as all-American hunky-dory movies are just not my kettle of tea. Director of Photography Eric Steelberg’s work in presenting the opening titles need to be credited because they set the scene for the rest of the film; you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Rolfe Kent’s subtle soundtrack is proof that composers and musicians are finally beginning to get recognition for the work they do behind the scenes in film. Never over-the-top, always timely and poignant, it was the final piece of the jigsaw that propels this picture from average into good/great.

Film does not have to be complicated to grab attention. The story just has to be worthy of screen, and the investment of money as well as innumerable man hours. Winslet as Adele and Griffith as Henry are mother and son. In short, they are asked to help stow away Brolin, as Frank, as he looks to escape the clutches of the law for murder, after escaping hospital, where he was about to undergo surgery for the removal of his appendix.


The story develops from there, and touches on many themes that keep the audience intrigued. Truth as a distraction; the lack of a paternal bond can leave in a young man’s life; the value of the little things like playing catch with your father, baseball and its place in the hearts and minds of the American people; the American legal system and how it is strict and flawed and heavy-handed. The desire for a mother to feel the love of a man who appreciates her; the tireless mind of a young man searching for answers, portrayed beautifully by Tobey Macguire, a role not dissimilar from that of Nic Carraway in last year’s jazzed-up remake of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

This film was worthy of Winslet’s nomination for Best Actress in A Leading Role in the Drama Category at this year’s annual Golden Globes. It is the narrative that makes a film, and you do not need an all-star cast to carry every picture. The audience that may see this film on the back of this review need bear it in mind that this is Griffith’s first major supporting role, having only made his breakthrough in recent times.

The standard of both film and TV Drama this calendar year ensures, quite rightly, that this film may struggle to get the recognition this reviewer believes it deserves. The search for a cinema in which it was shown was hard, having come out on March 21st according to the BBFC, and disappeared just as fast.

Eminently watchable, attention worthy, and worth the trip to the cinema, Kate Winslet does what she does best once again.

It is with a heavy heart that, as a result of all the cinematic magnificence I have viewed this year, that I cannot give this film more than 3.9/5.