The latest film from Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno) centres on 13-year-old Henry (newcomer Gattlin Griffith) as he confronts the pangs of adolescence while struggling to care for his reclusive mother, Adele (Kate Winslet). On a back-to-school shopping trip, Henry and Adele encounter Frank (Josh Brolin), a man both intimidating and clearly in need of help, who convinces them to take him into their home. The events of this long weekend will shape each of them for the rest of their lives.
For many of us, Labour Day weekend evokes bittersweet memories of first loves, family vacations, and a final gasp of freedom before the new school year. For thirteen-year-old Henry and his reclusive, divorced mother, Adele, it offers a chance for the happiness that they have long lived without.
With the first day of school approaching, Adele (the formidable Kate Winslet) and Henry (newcomer Gattlin Griffith) have ventured on a rare outing together to buy him some new clothes, when the boy is approached by Frank (the brooding Josh Brolin) — whose bloodied forehead and clear sense of desperation signal the need for help. Setting aside their suspicions, Henry and his mother reluctantly bring the stranger home, only to discover they got more than they bargained for. It's not long before they find themselves hostages of an escaped felon, and convicted murderer. And yet there's something comforting about Frank. What begins as a kidnapping slowly evolves into something else.
Festival audiences first fell in love with Jason Reitman as a feature director when he premiered his debut, Thank You For Smoking, here in 2005. With each subsequent film, his characterizations have grown richer and more sincere. Labor Day completes this metamorphosis, offering one of the most elegantly observed dramas of the year.
Bringing Joyce Maynard's novel to the
screen with refined confidence, Reitman
impressively balances the story's dramatic
and romantic tension. With nuanced performances
from an all-star cast (also including
Tobey Maguire and James Van Der Beek),
and precise editing, the individual experiences
of the film's three central characters
are seamlessly woven together over these
final days of summer, as each attempts to
escape their own personal prison.