TIFF 2013: Labour Day Review


This is the type of movie Juno Temple would make fun of. Where Juno was sarcastic, detached, and bitingly funny, Labor Day is overly sentimental, earnest, and has a plot that resembles a Hallmark movie of the month.

Kate Winslet plays a depressed, reclusive divorcee raising her precocious eleven-year-old son. Or rather, her son looks after and parents her, and sometimes in the middle of her funks she’s able to spew some advice about grown-up life (i.e. a distractingly awkward monologue about sex that’s a little too intimate for a mother-son chat in a hammock). On their monthly excursion to the discount supermarket to pick up supplies, escaped convict Josh Brolin forces his way into the family, vaguely threatening the life of Winslet’s son to convince the family to let him hide out in their house for a few days while he recovers from his injuries.

And then the film gets ridiculous.

Turns out the escaped convicted murderer actually has a heart of gold and is really a heck of a nice guy. He acts as a surrogate father and husband to Winslet and Son, fixing up the drainpipes, changing the oil in the car, and even teaching the family how to bake a proper pie! Naturally, Winslet and Son fall in love with Josh Brolin (Stockholm Syndrome – anyone?).

The painfully sweet dialogue (“I can’t give you a family,” followed by “You already have” and “I’d take another twenty years in prison to spend another three days with you”) and the inertia of the plot (what, you expected something to happen?) make the film practically unwatchable. When the character’s backstories, told mainly in flashback, are more interesting than the main plot it’s obvious there are severe narrative problems.

Labor Day is a film based on a Joyce Maynard novel with a plot that just doesn’t translate well to the screen. It’s competently made, acted, and directed, but the plot is simply too ludicrous to be taken seriously.

Grade: D+


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