Labor Day Movie Review – The film takes place over the span of one fateful Labor Day weekend and attempts to capture the complicated nature of human emotions, the unexpected formation of relationships under dire circumstances, and the nature of human interaction and dependence itself. Frank (Josh Brolin) is a recently escaped convict who interjects himself forcefully into the lives of Adele, a broken, depressed and torn shell of a woman (Kate Winslet), and her adolescent son Henry (Gattlin Griffith). Adele and Henry harbor the fugitive in their home over the course of the holiday weekend, initially against their will, but as the weekend progresses Adele finds herself drawn to him as the companion that she’s needed since Henry’s father left her for his secretary years ago. Henry too finds himself warming to Frank as he begins to fill the role of a father figure that he realizes he and his mother have both been longing for. Directed by Jason Reitman, Labor Day marks a distinct shift in both tone and approach from the chattiness and quirkiness of his previous films like 2007’s Juno. The film is slower, contains less dialogue, and weaves together different periods of time in the characters’ lives to bring the entirety of the story together.
The film attempts to build a budding romance over the course of a four day weekend between Adele and Frank, which completes the family unit that both Adele and Henry have been so desperately lacking. The problem is that the romance is never really sold, and the Stockholm syndrome nature of the relationship requires a lot in order to overlook its uneasy and somewhat predatory nature. Adele is a complete mess of a woman when Frank comes into their lives. She shakes uncontrollably, hardly ever leaves the house, and is utterly dependent on Henry to manage the adult responsibilities of the home. Frank is an unlikely savior, especially considering his initial forceful inclusion into their home. Granted, the story of his imprisonment is slightly more complicated than the news reports tell, but it’s difficult to accept and believe any feelings of love that grow between them as anything other than a forceful male convict preying on the emotional weakness and vulnerability of a broken women.
Reitman attempts to create complex relationships between conflicted characters, that don’t really succeed in the end. The thesis of the film attempts to focus on the idea that there are moments in life that we aren’t always ready for, that are complicated and frightening, and that we make the choice in those moments as to whether or not we will give ourselves up to them in the possibility of finding something worthwhile. The idea is that these moments occur unexpectedly and infrequently and we either take advantage of them for what they could be or let them pass us by, never knowing. While Winslet and Brolin’s performances are both strong, the chemistry between them is never enough to make us forget the frightening and manipulative way that they come into each other’s lives.