Disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while trying to support his family. Just as it looks like he will get a double payday, the boy's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything. Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
The story-line of Win Win brings difficult and realistic moral issues before us, which engage our interest and challenge our sympathies. But the film is not a ponderous work of moral theory, fortunately. Instead, it has many humorous moments which keep the tone quite light, even as the film raises some darker problems.
The first dilemma concerns the subterfuge that lawyer Mike Flaherty (Paul Giametti) employs to win the maintenance award for looking after his elderly client Leo who suffers from Alzheimers disease. The dilemma is not so much his (he needs the money too badly and he has a family to provide for), as ours - should we sympathise or not? Mike is a lawyer, yet he deceives the court and thus breaks the law. Yet, at the same time, Leo does not really lose out because the home that Mike puts him in is very comfortable. In a way, Mike's deceit is a win-win solution that solves Mike's financial problems and also provides proper care for Leo. But surely deceit cannot be condoned? Or can it? While we are still dealing with that issue, an entirely different one looms up and takes over the story. Leo's grand-son arrives, looking for his grand-father, Leo, who is now in the care home. Not only does this plot development add a lot of tension (because Mike's deceit is in danger of being exposed), it also adds further complications on the moral front. The first is, should Mike tell Kyle the truth, or is it better to try and help Kyle personally while leaving him in the dark? Should we really expect Mike to confess, when the result will be disastrous for so many people and achieve very little, apart from establishing the truth about Leo's transfer to the care home? Once again, we are just beginning to settle one problem when another arrives to add further complications, this time in the shape of Kyle's mother, Leo's daughter, who has never shown any interest in her father, but now shows a mercenary interest in his state of dependency.
I really enjoyed this film. There is a lightness in the telling of the story, which makes the whole experience a pleasure, but it is a story with some difficult issues to set before us, issues such as the care of the elderly and the rights of birth-parents over foster-parents, which give us food for thought. Above all, however, the film is very well acted and the characters are brought to life very effectively, persuading us of the reality of the issues which it raises, but also coaxing us to temper our judgment of our fellow human beings. The film reminds us that life is rarely as clear-cut as our stern guilty-or-innocent judgments would require.
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