Movie Review: Labor Day

Movie Review: Labor Day

In love and forgiveness, should there be boundaries?

By Mark HadleyWednesday 5 Feb 2014MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

“Love covers a multitude of sins”, the Bible teaches . However I’m not sure the Apostle Peter had in mind overlooking murder, manslaughter and prison breaks. But Labor Day manages to provide cinemagoers with just the sort of justification they’re looking for.

Mark Hadley reviews 'Labor Day'. 

Starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin star in the film adaptation of Labor Day, a love story between a house-bound woman and an escaped felon. The story is set in small American town in 1987 and told through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Henry Wheeler (Gattlin Griffith). Henry’s mother Adele suffers from agoraphobia since her husband left her for his secretary and seldom leaves home:

“I don’t think losing my father broke my mother but losing love itself. I tried to make up the loss … but I could sense my own terrible inadequacy.”

However on a rare trip to the supermarket she and Henry are intimidated into giving a ride to Frank who turns out to be an escaped convict. He is looking for a place to lie low before completing his escape and settles on spending the weekend at the Wheeler home. But over the three-day weekend Adele discovers a new lover, Henry a better father and Frank the family he thought he’d never have. 

Labor Day is just the sort of film my mother would refer to as, “Lovely!” Its unlikely plot totters on the verge of the ridiculous but is propped up by excellent acting from Winslet and the audience’s natural desire to see a young boy catch a break. However nothing will save it from being consigned to the same shelf at the video store occupied by other saccharine-soaked melodramas like The Notebook and The Lucky One. The question worth considering, though, is why films like this still manage to do good business, particularly with the fairer sex? 

Adele falls for Frank because he shows more concern for her and lonely Henry than any man to date, and demonstrates it by his service. Shot in soft focus it looks like love; a more realistic take would have been Stockholm Syndrome. Note to female readers: a man who begins his acquaintance by threatening to ring the neck of your son is not likely to turn out to be a good marriage prospect. However if Labor Day has any appeal at the box office it will be a testimony to just how starved women have become for sacrificial love. 

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Labor Day’s underlying theme is, in essence, that a bad exterior can still hide a good heart. Being short and possessing a great face for radio, I don’t really want to destabilize this. But what is clearly truly attractive in Frank’s character is his devotion. Modern love holds that a relationship is only appealing so long as both partners are getting what they need. But what continues to be truly attractive even in B-grade films is the lover who makes the beloved more important than life itself. I think this is why women naturally understand and often embrace Christianity. It’s hard to oppose a man who’s prepared to lay down his life for you. This is also why the Bible particularly applies Jesus’ example to husbands. If we’re aiming to express true love to our wives, we begin by giving away self-love. Sadly Labor Day’s love, though it grows from the same ground, doesn’t rise much higher than mental illness. There are better places to find clearer pictures of love, the Bible included.

Rating: M
Distributor: Paramount

Release Date: February 6