Jason Reitman’s latest is an adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s novel of the same name about a 7th grade boy (Gattlin Griffith) and his depressed agoraphobic mother (Kate Winslet) who come to the aid an injured man in a grocery store parking lot who turns out to be an escaped convict (Josh Brolin). As they harbor him mostly of their own free will over Labor Day weekend, they will become each other’s salvation and ticket to a new life.
The style of Labor Day is a departure from Reitman’s usual fare, but moments of his signature awkward humour are still present. He relies heavily on telling the story through visual cues, with close-ups of small gestures, and an overall ethereal, dream-like quality in his camerawork, especially in his flashback sequences. In this, we see two people rescuing each other from the psychological prisons they’ve built for themselves. The intensity of their awakening creates an exciting tension that threatens to explode at any second as reality looms large.
Kate Winslet is a seasoned emotionally fragile wife, she gives us her finest here as Adele, the abandoned wife and mother of an adolescent boy she can barely take care of. Josh Brolin is Frank Chambers, a sensitive convict who yearns for a family life that he was once cheated out of. As these two lonely characters find solace in each other, young Hank observes and quietly struggles with his own confusion and understanding, this is perfectly portrayed by Gattlin Griffith on screen, in combination with Tobey Maguire’s narration. They are the ideal cast to bring to life this tale, that’s not so much addressing moral ambiguity as it makes us realize there’s more that matters in life than just right and wrong, and that human beings function outside those boundaries.
Is Labor Day essential TIFF viewing?
Labor Day is like Nicholas’s Spark’s idea of a home invasion thriller, so if you can’t wait to bust out that box of tissues then be sure to catch it at TIFF. It’s engaging, moving, and will not disappoint. However it’s also sure to get a wide release, so don’t shed any tears if you miss it during the Festival.
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