This film was totally overlooked in 2014 and I have no reason why because in my eyes Jason Reitman's “Labor Day” is a stunningly good film that is full of emotional resonance. In actual fact, it was a film that I almost passed on seeing myself after I heard initial reports that this was Reitman's worst film to date and that it was full of cliches. I cannot remember why I ended up taking the plunge in seeing it but I am so glad I did because I loved (almost) every second of it and have been recommending it to people ever since. The film is about two damaged people; Adele, a single mother struggling to cope with life and the outside world after her husband left her and Frank, an escaped convict needing a place to hide from the cops who are searching for him, who come together over the course of the long Labor Day weekend and help the other to believe in life and love again. Both characters cannot go outside, one due to her anxiety and depression, the other for fear of incarceration, so in essence they are trapped together but because of this, they each get to understand just how the other truly ticks and a bond is formed between them that may in time become something more. Initially and understandably Adele and her son Henry are fearful of Frank, but as they get to know him it becomes clear that he is not the vicious murderer the media have portrayed him to be. Henry in particular is drawn to Frank as a father figure he never had, and over the course of the film we are witness to just how much one person can affect the lives of others forever in just a short period of time.
All of the performances are fantastic and you would expect nothing less from the talented cast Reitman has assembled. Kate Winslett excels with emotionally rich characters like this and she does an amazing job of conveying early on just how damaged she is and afraid of the world she has become after losing her faith in love. As the film goes on she very subtly opens herself up to the world and starts to let people in again and she begins to find joy once more in life. Josh Brolin is also stellar as Frank, with a very quiet and subtle performance, although there are times when he shows the wear and tear his psyche has suffered from his time in jail. Still he always comes across as a generous man, especially with his time and knowledge, and at no time does he treat anyone without kindness. The scenes when he includes the mentally retarded son of Adele's friend in a game of baseball they are playing is just so beautiful and brings a tear to the eye. Jason Reitman's direction is also well handled; he moves the film slowly as it is more about the little moments rather than big grand statements, and I love the way that the flashback structure of Franks past has been weaved throughout the present story so we, the audience, get to know Frank and the pain he has endured.
The only issue I have with the film is the framing device with Tobey Maguire playing the adult Henry, where we are witness to just how much the brief time with Frank affected his future. It is not that these scenes are poor or badly acted, but I just don't think the film needs them. The story is over by this point and it just comes across in my eyes as padding. Still its a minor quibble of I film that I think is totally underrated and that I recommend wholeheartedly. Do yourself a favour and check out “Labor Day” if you ever get the chance.