WIN WIN is a terrific film and I highly recommend it. This is a human story, with a strong narrative, well told and well acted. The characters are all believable and their struggles are identifiable. It is the kind of film I love.
For the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the non-verbal storytelling. Not only the camera work, but also the interactions between the characters where there is very little or no dialogue. So much is being said without using any words. There are wonderful “who do you like best?” exchanges between the wonderful Paul Giamatti as the down and out lawyer wrestling coach, Mike Flaherty, and the assistant coaches played by Jeffrey Tambor and Bobby Cannavale. There are other exchanges I don’t think we’ve ever seen on screen before between Paul Giamatti and his wife, Jackie Flaherty, played by Amy Ryan. She is such a strong and active presence and, as is typical of “the wife” role, is given only a modest amount of dialogue. You have to watch what she does with it.
But the most telling scenes come toward the end of the film between Paul Giamatti and newcomer, Alex Shaffer, who plays Kyle. Look for the scenes in the basement and then during their brief breakfast together that follows. Almost no words are spoken, and yet so much is being said. So much is accomplished by the actors and film maker, Thomas McCarthy, in terms of their relationship and the story.
As attorneys, I know you have often heard that pauses are powerful. That silence can speak volumes. Well, here are some wonderful examples of just how true that is. Watch the film, and focus on what is happening in between the words.
TIP: Trust the silence. By valuing the pauses and unspoken communication, you can sometimes emphasize your story and the critical moments of your storytelling in ways far more powerful than with all the sturm und drang at your disposal.
Shilpa on our creative team told us that we had to see WIN WIN immediately because it was not only a great movie, but it was about a lawyer and perfect for the blog. I thought, “I wonder what I’ll write about for Legal Stage?” I never dreamed I’d be writing about ethics.
The film is brilliant from an artistic sense – and Alan’s comments begin to address this beautifully. But I was much more struck by the story of a solo practitioner, Mike Flaherty, who is stuck in our current horrible economy. He’s still in the small town he grew up in. His business is going down the tubes fast. He is a soft-hearted guy whose client list is dwindling to the ancient and the dying. We know him. Some of us are him.
Mike is faced with a moral and ethical issue as an attorney and makes a choice that he knows is wrong. Funny, I think of all the folks who do this for great windfalls – or for power – or for some kind of prestige. He just makes a choice that lots of folks who feel like their backs are against some financial wall might be tempted to make. The difference is that he is an attorney. And making this choice violates his duty to his client, the court, to his client’s family…and, ultimately, to all of us.
I must say I came home and looked at myself long and hard in the mirror and made sure that I was doing well by doing good. And I’m not even a lawyer. WIN WIN is now on my list of favorite lawyer movies because I think it deals with a real ethical dilemma, and one lawyer’s journey through it.
TIP: How are you doing on your journey on the straight and narrow pathway today? Feeling the pinch? Inhale, exhale and make the highest choice for the greatest good of everyone involved.