Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day is a film adaptation starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Set in New Hampshire in 1987, the film is a bit of a change for director, Jason Reitman. It will have a wide release on Jan. 31, after having its limited release in some theaters on Dec. 27.
Reitman is known for adding a bit of comedy into his films, whether it was the witty remarks in Juno or the self deprecating humor in Up in the Air. Labor Day is a much more serious film that touches on topics of infidelity, jealousy, redemption and true love.
Main character Adele is played by Kate Winslet in a performance that speaks volumes throughout the film with only a few key scenes speaking of her condition. Adele is divorced with a 13-year-old son. She is emotionally fragile, depressed and suffers from agoraphobia – the fear of certain environments.
For many, agoraphobia comes in the form of not being able to leave their own homes. The condition used to be generally unknown to many people, but has been given some extra attention since Paula Deen opened up about her struggle with it. In the case of Paula Deen, her agoraphobia began through the trauma of losing her parents and she remained afflicted by it for over 20 years.
Adele struggles with her agoraphobia after her divorce and finds it nearly impossible to leave the house. However, when her 13-year-old son Henry gets her to go on a shopping trip the Thursday before the Labor Day weekend, a chance encounter changes all of their lives forever.
Henry is confronted by a man who is bleeding and is asked for help. The man ends up coercing Adele to give him a ride after alluding to a threat towards her son. They later find out that the man, Frank, is actually a convicted murderer who has escaped from prison (played by Josh Brolin). Frank Chambers was an inmate serving 18 years for murder. Frank takes them as hostages in their own home, but not in the manner that many people would think.
Glimpses of what really happened all those years ago when Frank was first convicted help show the audience the true nature of his “crime.” Instead of long moments of dialogue explaining Frank’s past, Reitman shows the audience through short visuals, which can be even more moving.
The five day Labor Day weekend ordeal becomes a life changing experience for all three in this New Hampshire home. While Adele’s agoraphobia has always made her feel like a prisoner in her own home, actually becoming a kidnap victim helped to heal her condition. Frank spoon feeds Adele homemade chili, teaches Henry how to play baseball, does work on the family car and bakes a pie. Both Adele and Frank are starved for love and acceptance, and they find it in each other.
Frank and Adele aren’t the only ones that have a connection through this bonding experience. Typical of a 13-year-old boy, Henry seems to be more connected to the television than anything else. Henry has somewhat of a lonely existence, with minimal friends and only a hamster as a pet. Frank brings Henry out of his shell and offers an even stronger relationship than he has with his own father and stepfamily.
The entire time they are holed up in the house, the police are still in search of the missing convict. Adele and Henry start to show a definite change in how they view Frank, even sending Henry to the store to get medicine to heal Frank’s infected wound.
The story is told through the perceptions of Henry and offers a great insight on human nature and the binds we put on ourselves. While Frank may have been trapped in a literal cell of imprisonment, Adele and Henry had put their own chains on inside their home. Meeting, knowing and understanding Frank help to put away their chains of loss and heartbreak and all three were able to do something that seemed impossible, to hope.