Review: Labour Day – Brolin And Winslet Star In Jason Reitman's Latest Outing
Labour Day is a unique offering from Jason Reitman, the man behind drama-comedies Juno, Up in the Air and Young Adult. However this time out he deviates from his usual approach and gives us something different.
The film follows Adele (Oscar winner Kate Winslet) and her 13 year old son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) whose lives are at a standstill until mysterious convict on the run Frank (Oscar nominated Josh Brolin) forces them to take him into their home, on labour day weekend.
Labour Day perfectly encapsulates the small town American feel, where everybody knows each other and every day is the perfect day to ride your bike through town. However, it isn’t perfect for Adele who is showing signs of depression and Henry has to look out for her and keep her from falling deeper into her depressive state. The film changes gear when Frank forces mother and son to take him back to their home.
Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin are matched perfectly as the leading roles of the film. Kate Winslet conveys Adele’s depression and timid nature convincingly. Her performance of Adele is reminiscent of her role in 2011’s Mildred Pierce and 2008’s Revolutionary Road, in terms of how she portrays a darker take on how people living the American dream behave. John Brolin swoops in as a charismatic convict, who over the course of the film through flashbacks uncovers the reason for his incarceration.
We are introduced to him as a murderer on the run who is highly dangerous, but as we get to know him we discover that life has just been cruel to him and that as he tells Henry at breakfast: “There’s more to the story that what’s in the papers”. The surprise star of the film is Gattlin Griffith, who is best known for his role in Changeling as Walter Collins. Gattlin Griffith portrays Henry with a sense of innocence, yet a character that is beyond his years – having to care for his mother and deal with his dad leaving to start a new life with his secretary.
There are no problems with the film per-se, just some themes that don’t quite settle with you. It’s almost like a live action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, where the captive falls in love with the captor, or in psychological terms: Stockholm syndrome. But for some reason it doesn’t quite work with Labour Day, as it all seems too easy and too seamless, that a convict would be so readily accepted by his victims. Another issue is how Henry seems to be a bit too accepting of a murderer who is getting closer to his mother and overstepping his boundaries.
However, once you get past those issues it actually is quite a decent offering from Jason Reitman. The setting works really well as it feels enclosed and intimate, the characters are interesting and brilliantly cast and the film wraps up really well as you get to see more of the aftermath of the Labour Day weekend incident. Henry’s character is more prominent by the narration of his older self, voiced by Tobey Maguire, as you get to see the film from his perspective and the narration sets up the film and concludes it nicely.
Whatever the problems of the film are, what Jason Reitman succeeds in is bringing to life these characters on the screen and allows actions and stillness of the characters to say a lot more than dialogue. There are moments of stillness and lingering shots that allow the scenes to settle and breathe, allowing the audience to immerse themselves in this world.