Labor Day

WRITTEN BY: Jason Reitman
DIRECTED BY: Jason Reitman
STARRING: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith,Tobey Maguire
RATING: 3.5 stars

Is Labor Day a sappy love story? Well, yes, to a certain degree it is. But, before you write it off based on the trailer as a Nicholas Sparks type of romance, give it a chance and it might actually surprise you. There is more to the story than you might think and it would probably make a good play with such well crafted characters. Director/writer Jason Reitman manages to keep the suspense level high while also exploring the dynamic between the protagonists.

Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day tells the story of depressed single mother Adele (Kate Winslet) and her 12-year-old son Henry (Gatlin Griffith) who are forced to drive injured prison escapee Frank (Josh Brolin) to their home. Frank forces them to let him lay low for a while in their house during the Labor Day weekend while police search for him. As the weekend progresses, the mother and son get to know Frank and they form an odd relationship.

It is definitely not a glamorous role, but Winslet gives an understated and effective performance as a scared and fragile woman. Brolin is a great anti-hero and his character is quite complex. On the one hand, he is presented as a villain, but on the other, he gives the mother and son hope and becomes a role model to the boy. Griffith is also a great performer with some great emotional range. The use of flashbacks is a great way to show how these characters became this way.

You may have a laugh at the cooking scene depicted in the trailer, but with context it is clear that Labor Day is a far more layered film.