Labor Day


STARRING: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith

Risk factor: Winslet and Brolin

With the dead-calm persuasiveness of battened-down desperation, escaped convict Frank (Brolin) inveigles himself into the lonely New Hampshire home of divorced mother Adele (Winslet) and her solitary 13-year-old son, Henry (Griffith). The year is 1987 — not necessarily a simpler time when you’re sheltering a convicted murderer, besides which, Adele is acutely depressed.


To all appearances, Frank is an obvious threat, especially as played with oblique intensity by a heavy-eyed Brolin. But as the Labor Day weekend unfolds, although Frank’s manner doesn’t markedly change, new dimensions are revealed. He plays baseball with Henry. He fixes the car. He bakes a mean peach pie. And softly, softly, he seduces the lady of the house back to life.


Director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) is too smart to monkey with Joyce Maynard’s 2009 story of fragile re-awakening. The thrumming undercurrent of the soundtrack is the chief suggestion of the menace that encircles the newfound family’s sealed house — not just the snapping jaws of the law but the weight of the past. In the face of all that, Adele’s tremulous dreams of freedom are a daring and inspired vision of a second, unconditional chance.