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London Film Festival 2013: Labor Day - Review

Labor Day

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

JASON Reitman’s Labor Day marks something of a departure from the director’s trademark style but remains a fascinating if flawed experience.

Adapted from Joyce Maynard ‘s novel, the film occupies several genres (thriller, coming-of-age journey and romance) while exploring the theme of emotional isolation. And if it relies heavily on a suspension of disbelief, it’s anchored by some compelling performances from the trio at the centre of the story.

The tale follows a reclusive mother, Adele (Kate Winslet), and her sensitive teenage son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) as their lives are changed by the arrival of an escaped con, Frank (Josh Brolin), who uses their home as a place to lie low.

Over the course of a long weekend, however, Frank becomes emotionally invested in their lives, becoming something of a father figure for Henry and a potential lover for Adele, while also retaining an element of danger by virtue of his violent – if misunderstood – past. For Frank, too, the weekend offers the possibility of providing him with the type of family he has long pined for.

Admittedly, there is an element to the story that feels too good to be true and which some viewers may find hard to get on board with, while some of the latter stages are awash with plot-holes.

The satire and comedy inherent in a lot of the director’s previous work (from Thank You For Smoking through Up In The Air to Young Adult) is also missing, as this feels very sincere and sometimes overly melodramatic.

But the cast work hard to keep you engaged and the chemistry between Winslet, Brolin and Griffith is compelling.

Griffith, especially, stands out as a young actor to watch, chronicling the various emotions of his journey from protective son to confident man of the world in bold fashion. But Brolin also makes his Frank an engaging and enigmatic presence, while Winslet conveys Adele’s insecurity and maternal instincts well.

Reitman, for his part, mostly keeps the story moving forward in intriguing fashion while maintaining an underlying tension that keeps the fate of it’s characters uncertain. But even so his film never quite tugs at the heart-strings in the way that you feel it should and this isn’t ultimately as fulfilling or as memorable as his very best work.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 111mins
UK Release Date: February 7, 2014
London Film Festival Dates: October 14 (OLS, 7.15pm), October 15 (Haymarket, 6.15pm), October 19 (Ritzy, 6.15pm)