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Movies: Win win ****

Paul Giamatti has a rare genius for playing put-upon everymen, and he's at it again in Tom McCarthy's hugely likeable comic drama Win Win. Mike Flaherty is a smalltown New Jersey lawyer who should be very happy with his lot but isn't.

Happily married to a no-nonsense woman called Jackie (the wonderful Amy Ryan), and the proud father of two young children, Mike is well-liked in the community and helps out at the local school by coaching the wrestling team. But his legal practice has been hit by the economic downturn, and money is getting dangerously tight.

Mike sees a way out of his troubles when a wealthy old client of his called Leo (Burt Young) comes to him with a problem. Leo is suffering from early dementia, his only daughter hasn't come to see him in ages, and he's about to be made a ward of the state and removed from his home to an institution.

Mike decides to become his legal guardian, but his motives are mixed. The position will pay a couple of thousand dollars a month: Mike takes the money but puts Leo in a retirement home anyway. It's a moral shortcut taken by a desperate man, but it will come back to bite him in the ass. And the plot thickens when Leo's grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) turns up looking for a place to stay. Mike and Jackie take him in, an act of kindness that will have huge ramifications.

Peopled by believable characters and a fine supporting cast, Win Win is a heartwarming indie film that takes the scenic route in terms of its storytelling and is all the better for it. Nobody really hates anybody in this film, and Giamatti delivers a masterclass in how to play quiet desperation.

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