It must be a sign of the times. And combining all those zeitgeisty themes of fathers and sons (Nebraska, Like Father Like Son) and captive love (Tom At The Farm and Abuse Of Weakness) Labor Day must surely be a hit. Pinning its Spielbergian credentials to the mast and with great performances from Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, it recounts the short but intense love affair between a traumatised single mother and an escaped convict over the Labor Day weekend. With lush visuals, it’s a sensual exploration of yearning. But it’s sweet enough to make one’s teeth start to clench.
A more ambiguous exploration of Stockholm syndrome romance, Catherine Breillat returns with Abuse Of Weakness. It’s a brilliant performance from Isabelle Huppert, but becomes repetitive as a female filmmaker, largely immobile following a debilitating brain haemorrhage, falls under a swindler’s spell with the premise of making him the lead of her next film. Slowly pressed for cheques for ever larger sums against promises of repayment, Breillat’s film economises love – with its ever greater investments and emotional debts, but can’t quite dispel the anxiety that you may have been fleeced too.
And after her experimental hit The Arbor, Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant is a fully fledged feature. Only very loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s novella of the same name, it’s an electric portrait of childhood friendship, aspiration and adolescence as one boy tries to make it big through scrap metal. Beautiful and quietly devastating, it’s a terrifying warning of the bad things good people do for money.
From Guatemala the theme continues as a band of teenagers run the gauntlet through Mexico in the hope of making it to the city of angels. A bleak portrait of migration, leaving the slums of Guatemala City only to be robbed, raped and threatened at gun point, Diego Quemada-Diez’s The Golden Dream is a delicate story of trust and survival with a bittersweet ending in a meatpacking factory, the dream realised but rapidly crumbling against the cold reality and the memory of the sacrifices made. There is however some light relief with Nicolas Phillibert’s gently comic La Maison de la Radio. A tour of the Parisian radio station hardly sounds like fascinating cinema, but in Phillibert’s hands, the humanity of news broadcasting, music making and drama producing comes beautifully to life. And it’s a testimony to this modern temple of creativity and all the producers and performers who want to make themselves heard.