Clearly ill at ease, Adele (Kate Winslet) emerges from her house for her monthly shopping trip. Henry, her 13 year old son, played by Gattlin Griffith, is manfully trying to be supportive. In the supermarket an injured Frank (Josh Brolin) with understated menace forces Adele to drive him back to her home. He turns out to be an escaped murderer on the run.
This is a world prior to mobile phones and the internet, so relatively recent, yet different, and this film captures the period in telling detail.
The three main characters come alive in this film – Josh Brolin changing a tyre, teaching Henry baseball, caring for a handicapped child, fixing a furnace could be in a Norman Rockwell painting of the father figure role model, and yet he makes it convincing that he is a caring, competent gentle man except when flashbacks reveal more and more of the story of the murder, and his eyes have a dark passion that may mean menace.
Kate Winslet is given a huge task in the film, to portray an emotionally damaged woman daring herself to risk vulnerability and passion again. She does this so successfully that we believe in her journey, despite the inherent improbabilities of the plot.
Gattlin Griffith inhabits his role as the 13 year old boy desperately wanting a role model, passionately wanting to help in his mother's healing, and stumbling into the world of girls.
Body language and music convey much of the emotions of this film. The plot is a thin mechanism to convey human longings and human tragedy.
There is a scene where the three main characters make a peach pie together. The cynic will see this as transparent myth making, and a shameless borrowing of the pottery scene in "Ghost". The romantic will embrace the myth, as the three pairs of hands join creatively to make something beautiful. For better or for worse this is the pivotal scene of the film.
The two adults are offered chances of redemption against devastating odds. For some, the ending will feel both predictable and contrived. For others, such redemption as can be given has been hard earned, and deserved.
Be that as it may, we are left with the memory of a woman stripped raw and vulnerable by life, who dares to risk, of a man who has flaws, passion and compassion, who reaches for love, and of a boy who is scarred and healed by both those lives.
Whatever you think of its flaws, this is a film worth seeing.