Was Kate due a grounding after the awards extravaganza of Revolutionary Road and The Reader? Because Labor Day (12A) slipped into cinemas in March and slipped out again almost unnoticed. With the DVD release this is a good time to reappraise her contribution to a film that deserves to be seen. Directed by Jason Reitman, the man who made Juno, it is no soft-centred love story aimed at lonely middle-aged dreamers. It has a tension that burns.
Winslet plays the depressive mother of a 12-year-old boy, divorced after her worse half legged it with a lady down the road. She lives in a large, messy house in Massachusetts, surrounded by trees and the hint of wilder country beyond. One day at the supermarket a man approaches her son. He is injured and says he fell out of a window. He is new in town and has nowhere to go.
They take him in and he helps out around the house. Meanwhile, everyone’s talking about an escaped murderer in the neighbourhood and you think, hey, hang on, is this the guy?
Winslet transforms this emotionally wounded woman and gives her a voice. Josh Brolin, as the incomer, contributes a powerful commitment, tense but focused, like someone constantly on guard, and the boy (Gattlin Griffith) who relates the story is perfectly cast.
Extras consist of a commentary by the writer/director, the director of photography and the co-producer, as well as six deleted scenes, all of which are memorable. The commentary is informative, detailed and intelligent. Like the film, it never wastes your time.
Documentaries have captured the higher ground now that multiplexes feed off CGI in anything with a comic-book heritage.
Twenty Feet from Stardom (12A) stands proud at the pinnacle of achievement, a galaxy away from X-Men. The strapline is ‘the story of backup singers’, which only scratches the surface. It is not about fame, although the temptation of breaking through as a solo performer is always there. These women are good, some better than good, and yet ‘there is only one Aretha, only one Whitney’, which leaves no space for competition.
Morgan Neville’s film is about music, the love of it, the feel for it, the gift of a voice integrating with others to create a unity beyond excellence. He concentrates on a small group of these dedicated singers who are so talented you cannot believe you haven’t heard of them. Springsteen, Jagger, Sting and Stevie Wonder are generous in appreciation of their contribution. But it is not the stars who make your heart leap, it is the quality of greatness, the perfection of sounds so exciting you forget to breathe.
There are no extras, only a trailer which barely hints at the glory of this Oscar-winning doc.
Delicacy is not a word that slides naturally into the cinematic vocabulary. Some might consider The Lunchbox (PG) old-fashioned, stirring memories of India before Bollywood. It has the pace of a teardrop, the heart of a dove, the beauty of a jewel. Feelings mix with imagination, creating wishes that dance in moonlight. And yet the story is so still it sounds simple.
Saajan (Irrfan Khan) has worked in the same claims department for 35 years. His wife is dead. Retirement beckons like a broken promise. Ila (Nimrat Kaur) lives in a tiny flat with her cheating husband and schoolgirl daughter. Auntie resides in a room above. They shout through the open window, but never meet.
There is a unique system in Mumbai where lunchboxes are collected from homes, even in the suburbs, and taken on bicycles to offices throughout the city and delivered to the desk of the recipients in time for the midday meal. One in a million land on the wrong desk as Ila’s reaches Saajan’s by mistake and so a correspondence, passed in the lunchbox, begins.
Writer/director Ritesh Batra has created a love story, based on food and free postage, hardly the stuff of dreams. And yet wonders have been built on less.
Extras include interviews with Batra (‘Screenplays are closer to poetry’) and Kaur (‘An unhappy heart cannot relate to anyone’). Such intelligence and empathy make Hollywood look like a fairground attraction.