Jason Reitman’s most recent film Labor Day, the story of a disjointed New England family in the late 1980s that briefly crosses paths with a fugitive,has a slightly unbelievable plot, but somehow maintains a touching coming of age story.
The story of a seventh-grade boy named Henry (Gattlin Griffith) starts off with the fully assured and utter affirmation that Adele (Kate Winslet), his mother, suffers from debilitating depression as the result of what first appears to be just a failed marriage. As narrated by an older Henry throughout (Toby McGuire), the good-natured son is a loyal and intelligent child who spends his days with his mother. However, he knows there are aspects of a relationship that his mother longs for and desperately needs that he can not provide.
At plot point one, a slightly fortuitous and rare visit by the mother and son pair to the local supermarket quickly seems to spell trouble when a wounded man named Frank (Josh Brolin) approaches Henry asking for assistance. Henry, being good-natured and for the most part still thoroughly innocent, agrees and leads Frank to his mother. They then leave the store quietly, and it is clear that this is the first time that Adele has been awake and mentally present for a while. Despite the fact that she is being kidnapped with her son, as made more clear by Frank, she seems rather docile about the situation, though she shows some fear and throws a few idle threats. After talking about resting his injuries for just the night, Frank then proceeds to tie the mother up in order to “keep up with appearances” and to establish some sort of control and perverted trust of the two. Later the audience is regaled with the reason for his injuries and need of a hiding place, and Frank’s injuries force him to stay longer than expected.
It should be said that the way the plot progresses in terms of Brolin’s entry into the movie worked fine for the dynamics of the characters. However, it doesn’t play out to relate to reality, which gives the movie more of a feeling of dubiety in its presentation of such an unrealistic situation. In fact, the situation is so unrealistic that in order to maintain any cinematic seriousness the entire plot is better viewed as a thought provoking insight as to how deeply the need for love is ingrained into people both young and old, good and bad. It shows how people’s desire for love drives them both to help and hurt those closest to them.
In all, while the movie’s plot seems to prove unrealistic, it pulls deeply on audiences as the struggle to be a good son, a caring mother and a devoted husband are all revealed in the progression of the movie. The innate, deep desire for love that rests within us all at all ages is shown brilliantly throughout the movie.
By Ross Parks
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