Film Review: “Labor Day” (2013)



Directed by: Jason Reitman

Screenplay: Jason Reitman, Based on novel by Joyce Maynard

Cast: Kate WInslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Tobey Maguire, Tom Lipinski, Maika Monroe, Clark Gregg, James Van Der Beek

Adele is a deeply depressed single mother who lives in a rural home with her 13-year-old son, Henry.  Everything changes radically for them when a bloody man approaches Henry and his Mom and makes them give him a ride…

I was lucky enough to see Jason Reitmans`s “Labor Day” at TIFF last year, during the Toronto Film Festival. I have to admit, this film did not touch me then, as it did now. Maybe after watching so many films during the festival I was too tired to see the powerful, profound, and thrilling story of Adele, her son Henry, and the escaped convict Frank, who with his kindness and delicate attitude make this film absolutely stunning, and unique.

Certainly, without the novel “Labor Day” by Joyce Maynard, Jason Reitman would never have been able to make such an artful film that focuses more on emotions and the senses than the story itself.

“Labor Day” starts with the narrating voice of grown-up Henry (Toby Maguire) who tells the story of his mother, whose heart was broken, not because of losing his father, but from losing love itself. Even though Henry is just a 13-year-old boy, he understands the loss she feels enough to bring her breakfast in bed, make her a coupon book, clean the dishes, run a bubble bath, and do many of the other things that his father would have done for her.

Through Henry`s story, we feel Adele`s loneliness, despair, and desperate desire to be as strong as possible for the only hope and happiness she has in her life- her son Henry.

Adele (Kate WInslet) and Henry go to the local store to buy clothes, when the escaped convict Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin) approaches Henry, asking him for a ride. Obviously Henry cannot do this since he is too young to drive. So, that`s when Adele enters the scene. Frank makes them give him a ride to their house to rest his legs. Soon after, Adele and Henry find out that he is a fugitive and needs a place to hide from the police.

The fascinating and unbelievable part of the film starts right after they all get to the house, where Frank admits that he escaped from prison that morning.   He promises not to hurt Adele and her son if they let him stay overnight.  Through flashbacks, it is revealed to us that Frank is a Vietnam veteran who returned home and married his pregnant girlfriend. A year after the baby`s birth, Frank and Mandy had a fight and she told Frank that he was not the baby’s father.  During one of their fights, he pushed her against a radiator and accidentally killed her.

After hearing this story Adele and Henry change their opinion of Frank and start living more as a family. Eventually, Frank and Adele fall in love with each other. In a short time Frank is able to replace something irreplaceable, not only in the house, but in Adele’s heart. He fills the emptiness in her heart with love, care, attention and gratitude just for being who she is; the most beautiful and amazing woman in his life.

Jason Reitman (Juno) did a tremendously outstanding job, not just adapting Joyce Maynard`s novel “Labor Day”, but by also directing it with all his heart.  He displayed a fondness for the story of Adele and Frank, written by Joyce Maynard, and delivered a touching and inspiring story.

Jason Reitman focuses not only on the story, be shows us the entirety of the pain Adele feels from her loneliness, before she meets a man, which with his presence, brings meaning to her life.  With him, she is no longer alone.

Despite all this, the story and project would be meaningless if not for the talented actors in the movie, especially Kate WInslet, whose performance was quite convincing as a woman whose pain is more emotional, rather than physical.  Josh Brolin, as Frank Chamber, was quite interesting, and believable and was able to convey Frank the way Adele and Henry saw him: as a loving and caring man of the house who would always take care of them and love them from the bottom of his heart. And certainly, Gattlin Griffith, as Henry, was exceptional with a believable pained expression on his face, As a son, he was always there to invite his Mom for a date when he was the only man in her life.

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