Not many actresses can look quite so alluring as Kate Winslet with no makeup, dishevelled hair and corseted in a dowdy brown sleeveless dress.
Frank (Josh Brolin) obviously thinks so too, when he arrives at her doorstep, along with her young son Henry (Gattlin Griffith), after abducting them from the local supermarket.
Frank, bleeding from an appendix scar, is on the lam, a convicted murderer who has just escaped from prison. Adele (Winslet) is a single mum battling to cope with social alienation and depression.
Every work of fiction demands a suspension of disbelief and Jason Reitman’s compassionate film of how our need to love and be loved, above all else, goes perilously close to failing this mandatory test.
Told by Henry at different stages of his life (the last brief narration, by Toby Maguire, poses the question, ‘why the earlier voice?’), the events unfold over the Labor Day long weekend – five days that Reitman manages to make seem like weeks.
Apart from Adele’s phlegmatic acceptance of Frank’s presence, I found it verging on the implausible that a hunted killer could be holed-up in a suburban house, playing baseball in the yard and working outside on the family car, without somebody noticing.
But I was prepared to go with it because of the brooding sexuality that grows between Adele and Frank – even if Reitman, averting explicit carnality, tends to overdo the juicy erotica of a peach-pie-making scene.
Meanwhile the pair’s back-stories are dealt out in short, sharp flashbacks.
Adele’s state of mind is explained by an unbearable loss and Frank’s crime is revealed as a cruel blow of fate.
Winslet’s sensibilities are unerring and Brolin, if a little too stoic, is good as a man wronged. Reitman might have thought twice about his cheesy coda, but all of the pieces of his cryptic jigsaw puzzle eventually come together to complete the unpredictable but satisfying big picture.
What is apparent to the outside world is only ever the tip of the iceberg – which is how it is for all of us, isn’t it?
~ John Campbell