It truly is an amazing thing, because one way or another, we all want to feel love in our lives, be it in some grand display of emotion. "Labor Day" while unabashedly leaning on some pretty obvious romantic storytelling tropes is on overwhelmingly sweet tale of romance that you can't help but get lost in.
Depressed single mom Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) reluctantly offer a wounded, fearsome man (Josh Brolin) a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as they become torn between their options of sticking with their old and depressing life or taking a risk for a chance at happiness.
Make no mistake, this is some schmaltzy storytelling...but it is exceptionally well done and you get wrapped up in it, even though you know that you really shouldn't be. Director Jason Reitman who adapted the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard for the screen crafts a wonderful, almost fable like tale of the power that love can truly have over us as individuals. Shot in a sweaty haze, it is a unique balance of menace and tenderness as the power of love and more so of love lost can overwhelm people even on the best of occasions and while some of the musical cues were a little telegraphed, it is a story romantics will simply lap it up. Reitman's affection for the material is shockingly obvious as this narrative unfolds at an incredibly deliberate pace that works within the context of these character falling in love. It is anchored by two very strong lead performances that only help dive into this passionate tale.
At this point I'd watch Kate Winslet read the phone book as her Adele is a ball of emotions on the brink of exploding or imploding at any minute. She never acts out in any sort of theatrics or histrionics but keeps it all right there, just brewing on the surface and it is incredible to watch this cauldron of emotions on the brink of bubbling over. Josh Brolin's troubled con is simply magnetic and he is settling into a very comfortable noble leading man swagger after all these years and brings a uniquely male perspective to the story, matching Winslet's energy note for note. Gattlin Griffith makes a big impression and his performance as the young son on the brink of adulthood still trying to figure out the true nature of love. All three performances are truly what makes this film something to behold and take in.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are first rate as the special features include a feature length commentary track with director Jason Reitman, director of photography Eric Steelberg and first assistant director and co-producer Jason Blumfeld. There's also an extensive making of and deleted scenes.
Sure "Labor Day" fits a certainly well traveled story mold, but when it fits so damn well you just can't ignore these souls in dire need of some genuine love.
3 out of 5 stars.
"Labor Day" is now available to rent or purchase on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand from all major providers and retailers.