Movie Review of “Labor Day” (in Rocket-Miner Marquee 02/19/2014)

Passing Over ‘Labor Day’
Ashley Jo Will

Released in movie theaters Jan. 31, 2014, “Labor Day” tells about a series of events which take place over the titular holiday weekend. “Labor Day” is based on a novel written by Joyce Maynard, which is available to check out at Rock Springs Library in the Sweetwater County Library System. Kate Winslet stars in “Labor Day” as the lead female character and she has earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in this film. This award-winning actress plays a broken woman named Adele whose life is changed in a positive manner when a mysterious stranger enters her life.

The story is told in the perspective of Adele’s son Henry. The adolescent boy lives with his mother while having dinner with his father’s new family on Sundays. Rather than being a carefree child, Henry lives his life more like a husband to his mother. Adele only leaves home on rare occasions and when she does travel with Henry, Adele often waits in the car. Henry helps out a lot around the house, takes care of the grocery shopping and performs transactions at the bank. Townspeople ask how Henry’s mother is doing and wish Adele was present as well but they are accustomed to only seeing the young boy run errands. Henry especially resembles Adele’s partner rather than her son when he gives his mother a homemade coupon book for a special occasion. The young man gives his mother a variety of gifts such as a massage and a bath. Henry appears to be skipping childhood to devote his spare time helping his mother and to do his best to make her happy.

Adele is depressed and becomes nervous upon leaving her house. Her condition spawned when she couldn’t bring another child into the world in addition to Henry. Adele and her ex-husband had repeatedly tried until the couple’s desired result seemed impossible. After a final attempt, Adele kept seeing pregnant women everywhere which caused an overwhelming ocean of suffocating emotion within her. Now Adele has no desire to leave her home. Adele’s husband did not have the fortitude to remain at his wife’s side at her greatest time of need. Instead the couple divorced and Henry’s father married another woman to fulfill his desire to live a normal life with minimal pain. Henry acts as if he is obligated to take care of his mother as a good husband would because his father wasn’t courageous enough to do so.

Adele braves the outside world to shop with Henry. While looking at cards and magazines, Henry encounters a rugged-looking man named Frank. He is injured and tells Henry that his mother looks like the kind of lady who would give him a ride. Adele is hesitant but Frank has his hand gripped upon Henry, giving the nervous woman no other choice than to let the man into her vehicle. When Adele asks Frank where to take him, the mysterious stranger says to take him to her house in order for him to rest his legs. Adele arrives home and makes her guest a cup of coffee. Frank is honest with Adele and Henry; he tells them that he was injured when he jumped out of a window in a hospital … when he escaped from a prison. This alarming revelation is startling and Adele and Henry realize that their new guest doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. Frank tells Adele that he must tie her up so she doesn’t have to lie if police accuse her of harboring a fugitive. Adele doesn’t fight as Frank ties both her hands and feet. The camera focuses on the knots made, emphasizing the power of Frank and his capability to control her. Henry watches as Frank ties up his mother and doesn’t attempt to call the police. Instead he watches Frank’s actions with curiosity and fear.

While Frank is holding Henry and Adele captive in their own home, he assumes the role of a longed-for husband. Frank completes various tasks around the house; he cleans, fixes anything broken, does maintenance work, cooks, bakes pie with the perfect crust, and teaches Henry about tools and how to play baseball. While this image of a strong man doing all of those things may be a perfect father and husband from one of your dreams, this scenario in the film is very unrealistic. Frank cooks chili and spoon-feeds morsels to a tied-up Adele. At least one friend agrees with me that if an alleged criminal had tied you up in your own home, you wouldn’t want to eat anything from a suspicious stranger or have much of an appetite no matter how hungry or delicious the food was. I also could not imagine any criminal – who didn’t want to get caught by the police – spending a prolonged amount of time outside doing activities such as playing sports, performing vehicle maintenance, and cleaning out gutters despite the amount of people looking for him or her. It is no secret that Frank is a criminal because his face is on the front page of the newspaper, he is on the local news reports on television, and his face is strewn on posters around town. Adele’s kind neighbors also have a tendency to visit often. The gall of Frank to not remain hidden was beyond my suspension of belief.

Frank plans to leave when night falls but Adele tells him that he should stay. Henry agrees with his mother because he can tell that if the mysterious man stays, she will be happy. The boy knows his mother is missing the feeling of being loved even more so than missing her previous husband. Later Henry listens in on the intimacy of his mother and Frank. He soon becomes jealous of Frank and with the help of a new girl his age, he becomes concerned that his mother will love Frank more than him and the new couple will want time for themselves and want the boy to be gone from their lives. The audience learns about Frank’s past through various flashbacks. He says he has never hurt anyone intentionally in his life. Accident or not, Frank did kill somebody and whether or not this act was intentional would be irrelevant if I was regarding the safety of my family. Frank cannot believe that any man would leave Adele and soon the two adults become quite close. The fast connection these two have is also jarring. Some people may want to believe in a fairy tale love story where a strong man meets a weak woman and she becomes complete as the two live happily ever after. Call me a cynic or a pessimist but I do not believe in a story about two people meeting over Labor Day weekend and deciding over a short time period that they want to be in a committed relationship forever. The majority of the events in the film pass over Labor Day weekend; see how one mysterious strong stranger changes a broken woman’s life as well as her son or take my word and pass over “Labor Day” and perhaps read the book instead.

About Ashley

My name is Ashley Will and I am a reference specialist librarian at Rock Springs Library. I graduated in May of 2008 from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor of arts degree in English.
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