"Labor Day" has gotten lukewarm notices, but it brought tears to my eyes three times - and that's good enough for me.
Though I don't read other reviews before writing my own, it's easy to see why critics were unhappy.
"Labor Day" concerns an emotionally shaky single mom (Kate Winslet) and her seventh-grade son, who are taken hostage in their home by an escaped convict (Josh Brolin).
Initially threatening - and also the subject of an intensive manhunt - he turns out to be a pretty good guy; he and Mom fall for each other during the course of the titular weekend.
Problem No. 1 is that the man is too good to be true.
He can dance, play baseball, fix anything, cook like a fiend (pie crusts included) and interact tenderly with a severely handicapped, wheelchair-bound young neighbor.
Granted, his back-story - laid out in fairly fuzzy flashbacks - makes it clear that he's not a hardened criminal; still, one senses no darkness in the man, who is certainly carrying plenty of baggage, romantic and otherwise.
This is troublesome not only for his characterization, but also for the narrative: "Labor Day" moves very slowly and has far too many long freighted silences; it would be much snappier if Brolin occasionally exuded some menace.
There's a moment at the end when he seems sure to wonder whether Mom and son betrayed him; the fact that his faith in them never wavers is, well, too good to be true.
Other problems include the final act, which is both too pat and too shapeless; the film develops a number of absorbing plot strands and then just leaves them lying there.
So why does it work?
Let's start with the obvious: Kate Winslet, bringing her usual mix of vitality and nuance to this fragile woman who's been dumped by her husband and endured other problems I won't discuss.
Winslet is especially strong in a late hospital scene; it's one of those tear-inducing moments, and viewers won't soon forget it, evoking as it does a lifetime of empathy and pain in a few short minutes.
Winslet and Brolin have instant chemistry - and this, together with his deeply moving decency toward this struggling woman and her fatherless son, helps us overlook the shallow writing that shoves them both toward happiness.
"Labor Day" also features spookily meticulous re-creation of its 1987 setting, and some intriguing against-type casting: J.K. Simmons, best known as Spider-Man's gruff and growling boss, here plays an upbeat, cheerful neighbor; and "Dawson's Creek" veteran James Van Der Beek appears briefly as a well-meaning policeman.
Tobey Maguire also has a small role, and young Gattlin Griffith is solid as the son - though again, the part is underwritten.
And finally, the ending: It may be intellectually unsound, but emotionally, the denouement takes us exactly where we want to go.
Complain as you might about the film's flaws - and critics have certainly done so - I don't think many viewers will feel like they wasted their time.
3 stars out of 4.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material, brief violence and sexuality.