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Plot: What’s it about?
Labor Day begins in 1987 when a young boy named Henry (Gattlin Griffith) runs into Frank (Josh Brolin) at a store one day. Frank is bleeding and just so happens to be an escaped convict. After he asks Henry and his mom Adele (Kate Winslet) to take him to their house, they’re not so keen on the idea. He shows them the gun he’s carrying and, now they have no choice but to take him along. Frank insists he means no harm and only wishes to rest before getting on his way. Henry cares for his mom after his father left. He helps do the shopping, cleans up around the house and various other things. We even see him cash checks for her. We slowly learn more about Frank as the film progresses. I won’t reveal certain plot points, but he escaped from the hospital to have his appendix removed. This is why he is bleeding. There’s a bit of tension in the early moments of the film as we’re not quite sure who Frank is exactly or why he was in prison to begin with. Frank convinces Adele that he needs to tie her up for it to appear as a kidnapping. This is in case anyone comes and sees them. It should come as no surprise that eventually Henry and Adele warm up to Frank. Also unsurprising is the relationship that builds between Frank and Adele over the course of the film. Still, I enjoyed the way the three of them grow closer. I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with the pie making scene that looks like a leftover scene out of Ghost.
With a lesser cast and Director, Labor Day might’ve felt more like an afternoon Lifetime special, but as it stands, it offers an enjoyable story with its heart in the right place. It’s also not quite as predictable as you might expect. The film has a running narration by an older Henry voiced by Tobey Maguire who gives us details here and there, and gives small asides as well. Thankfully, it doesn’t overpower the main story. I enjoyed the way that Henry and Adele actually want and need a man like Frank in their lives. It also helps it’s not until fairly late in the film that we truly see why Frank was sent to prison. Deep down he’s a good man, but his primary goal is to avoid going back to prison. Before long the three of them plan to drive to Canada and start a new life together. I’d definitely recommend seeing Labor Day, but with certain reservations. It’s a nice diversion from the bigger effects-driven films and various remakes, but it isn’t without flaws itself. For one: it does drag a bit at times. I was never bored with it, but some trimming in the middle could’ve tightened things up a bit. It might not be something you’d want to rewatch over and over, but it is worth checking out once.
Video: How’s it look?
The transfer is very nice throughout. Details remained strong with nice, deep colors. The print used is clean and free of debris or other flaws. That’s not surprising as this is such a recent film, but you never know sometimes. Since this takes place in the late 80’s, we also see a lot of older vehicles and various things popular around that time. I spotted a few specks of dust here and there and even a spot on the windshield of a police car in one scene. Fear not, this film looks great. The image is AVC encoded with a 2.40:1 ratio.
Audio: How’s it sound?
We get a DTS HD track here that accompanies the film nicely. It’s a quieter film to be sure, but there are moments where the rear channels kick in nicely. I notices some insects buzzing around in the background in a scene or two. There’s also a bit of bass during some of the later scenes and in flashback sequences. Henry has a vision of something gone terribly wrong where the police are firing their guns and this sequence shows strong range. Fans will be pleased with this track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – We get a commentary track with the Director, Director of photography and a producer and first AD from the film.
- Deleted Scenes – Shows 6 sequences cut from the film.
- End of Summer: Making Labor Day – A solid behind the scenes look at the film that covers a lot of ground. It clocks in just under 30 minutes.
The Bottom Line
Better than films of this sort usually are. Labor Day benefits from strong performances across the board, and having its heart in the right place. It’s good viewing for a rainy day or when you have some free time.