SCENES OF SORROW: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and Gattlin Griffith in Labor Day.

Labor Day
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
CAST: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes


Romantic tales generally require a certain degree of make-believe if they are to prove successful with main-stream audiences.

When man meets woman, we anticipate a happily-ever-after, neatly wrapped up with a pretty red bow.

Life, love and relationships, however, seldom adhere to this cookie-cutter Hollywood version of events. But every so often, a film comes along that skilfully bows away at those heart strings, while simultaneously never shying away from the fact that all will not necessarily end well.

After a chain of devastating tragedies that place her in a perpetual state of depression and lead to the breakdown of her marriage, single-mother Adele (Winslet) effectively exiles herself from humanity at large.

Fragile to the point of shattering, even when faced with such simple tasks as driving to the local store for monthly grocery shopping, Adele’s only tenuous link to the wicked world beyond is her 11-year-old son, Henry (Griffith).

That is, until rugged escaped convict, Frank (Brolin) comes along to upset this rotting apple cart.

The story unfolds over the course of the American Labor Day long weekend in 1987 and is told from the narrative perspective of a – now fully grown – Henry (voiced by Toby McGuire).

Edged along at a delicately nuanced, though at times painfully slow pace, it details the coming together of two forlorn souls who have effectively been shunned by society, due to a series of misconstrued events that have placed Frank, in particular, in the position of the proverbial “bad guy”.

Through a sequence of gradually unfolding flashbacks, we are offered insight into precisely how and why these two essentially good people came to find themselves in such compromising circumstances – even if their meeting and almost immediately cosy interactions require a degree of suspension of disbelief.

Both Brolin and Winslet (who received a Best Actress in a Motion Picture nomination at this year’s Golden Globes for her efforts) successfully capture the quiet desperation of their respective personas, even if Frank’s underlying optimism at times belies the seriousness of his situation.

Griffith’s role is mainly that of the link between past and present, and while some have praised the youngster’s performance, I found his insipid approach to his character more of a hindrance than a help to the broader plot.

At it’s core, it’s a poignant, authentic story (based on the Joyce Maynard book of the same name).

But the distinct sense of sorrow that seeps through every screen shot, even during the scenes where Adele and Frank are brought back to life (albeit briefly) thanks to the intensity of their sudden romance, will make it a difficult movie to watch for most.


If you liked Philomena or The Bridges of Madison County, this film will likely appeal to you.