Movie Reviews

‘Labor Day’: A precarious romance

By Anjali RaguramanMovies - 12 March 2014 12:00 AM | Updated 11:25 AM

‘Labor Day’: A precarious romance

Our Rating

3/5 Stars

Set in middle America in 1987, the film is named after a series of events that transpire over five days of the US Labour Day holiday.

Told through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy, it is the unlikely love story of a depressed, reclusive divorcee and a handsome stranger who enters her life unexpectedly, and who just happens to be a convict on the run from the police.

Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) takes her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith, ‘Changeling’) to the supermarket to pick up new clothes before the school term starts. Paralysed by depression, and a shadow of her former vivacious self, she is self-conscious and avoids eye contact with others.

Her husband (Clark Gregg, ‘The Avengers’) has left them and she goes out of the house “only once a month to pick up supplies”, recalls her grown-up son Henry as the movie's narrator (voiced by Tobey Maguire.

At the supermarket, a stranger wearing a blood-stained shirt asks mother and son for a ride and gets one. Escaped convict Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin, ‘Gangster Squad’) invites himself to hide in their house.

Kate Winslet plays a divorced woman and single mother who takes in an escaped convict at her home.


Frank quickly settles in and becomes the man around the house, father figure to Henry.

And the strange seduction of Adele, who quickly falls in love again, is enrapturing to watch. It is metaphorically captured in the making of a sumptuous peach pie, complete with intertwining fingers and hands and stolen looks (much like that scene between Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in ‘Ghost’).

Amid the kerfluffle, poor Henry is battling the onset of puberty, figuring out his feelings towards girls, and observing his mother romance this new man.

He is also influenced by a new-in-town precocious teenager, Eleanor (Brighid Fleming), who warns him he may be forgotten by his mother. 

Through a series of recurring flashbacks that span the entire film, the true sequence of events and motives behind the crime committed by Frank (Josh Brolin, centre) are revealed.


Based on a book of the same name by Joyce Maynard, the film is adapted and directed by Jason Reitman, who was behind coming-of-age film ‘Juno’ as well as the masterful ‘Up in the Air’ that starred George Clooney. But while his previous work was humorous and edgy, this film lacks any real bite even if it is an absorbing adult drama.

The tension is in waiting and watching to see if Adele’s fragile exterior cracks. She goes from mousy-haired and reclusive at the start, to a woman who finds her feet again as love re-enters her life.

Winslet plays the role with sensitivity and subtlety, never once needing to resort to pills or gin to deal with her emotions.

Brolin as the dark, handsome stranger plays his role with empathy and quiet strength.

Though versatile and competent actors,  their characters are still predictable in their development, and the movie feels more like a made-for-cable-TV movie than a feature film.

'Labor Day' opens in cinemas on 13 March 2014

Labor Day

Movie Photos

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Labor Day
  • Labor Day

  • Rated
    NC16 /
  • Language
  • (1 Review)