LABOR DAY: “Truly a tearjerker melodrama”

Labor Day Movie Poster

Kate Winslet as Adele Wheeler
Josh Brolin as Frank Chambers
Gattlin Griffith as Henry Wheeler
Tobey Maguire as Older Henry Wheeler
Clark Gregg as Gerald
4 out of 5

It’s 1987 rural New England. Adele, a young divorced mother, and her 13 year old son, Henry, live alone. Practically a recluse and severely depressed, Adele relies on the help of her son to cope. One day during a rare shopping trip into town to pick up supplies, Henry is approached by a wounded man, Frank, who gently, but persistently pressures him and Adele into giving him a ride to their home where he reveals he is an escaped prisoner. He injured himself escaping from the hospital where he was admitted for a procedure so he needs to hide out for a few hours till he can move on. Adele and Henry are fearful, but Frank, although he seems slightly menacing, does not seem immediately dangerous.

Frank initially was going to move on the next morning, but somehow he ends up staying with Adele and Henry for five days, becoming the surrogate husband and father they both have needed. Frank takes to handiwork around the house, changing the oil in the car, rebuilding stonework, waxing the floors. He even shows them how to bake a peach pie. Adele’s loneliness and depression stemming from the break up of her marriage has been deep, and at times, physically debilitating. She is afraid of being out in public and has occasional nervous tremors that keep her from performing the smallest of tasks. She has been bereft for a long time. Hank has been there to support and care for his mother, but he realizes that she needs a level companionship that he cannot provide. Frank is a convicted murderer, yet a gentle, strong man who also has had a long denied need to connect and somehow all three of them bond over the course of a few days.

The manhunt for Frank is slowly closing in, and they realize that their time is very fleeting. They decide to take steps to keep their makeshift family together, but will their plan succeed before they are found out?

Labor Day has all the tension of a thriller, but the sentiment of a Hallmark Channel movie. That’s not anything against it if you like Hallmark Channel movies. It is quite heartfelt and grounded. Kate Winslet’s portrayal of Adele, a woman haunted by the sadness of several miscarriages and subsequent break up of her marriage, is heartbreaking. She seems so fragile, yet there is an underlying thread of strength especially where her son is concerned.

Josh Brolin’s Frank is a convicted murder whose backstory is told in flashbacks throughout the film. The reasons for his incarceration are accidental and very unfortunate. He is not a violent or abusive man. He is haunted by what he did, and it has left a profound sadness within him as well. Even though he could be a potential threat to Henry and Adele, you can feel his longing for what he thought he once had in his life: a family.

New comer Gattlin Griffith, Henry, longs for a father figure to replace the father who walked out on him and his mother. Wise beyond his thirteen years, he understands that somehow this seemingly impossible situation could possibly be what he and his mother have needed.

These three people all seem to heal each other, and you’re rooting for them every step of the way.

Labor Day is truly a tearjerker melodrama if ever there was one. I don’t say that mockingly. Every once in a while you need a good tearjerker melodrama and this is a good one. This is a very touching film that plays on your emotions like a violin, but leaves you satisfied in the end. If you have a penchant for the Hallmark/Lifetime channel type of movie, Labor Day is just what you’re looking for.

Check out the trailer for “LABOR DAY” below:

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