"Labor Day," directed by Jason Reitman, shines the way a love story should shine, yet falls short of its dramatic potential as an escaped convict story.
Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, this film tells the story of a depressed single mother, played by Kate Winslet, who falls in love with a prisoner on the run, Josh Brolin, while he hides away in her home.
Suspense is built from the opening scene through a lot – almost too much – of music. As Brolin's character, Frank, makes his way to the car with Winslet's Adele, their expressions, compounded by a dark score, prepare the audience for imminent drama.
But this suspense builds continuously, never reaching a climax. The majority of the film is comprised of somewhat uncomfortably long takes. Although the extended takes accurately portray the characters' discomfort, they also lack dialogue. At times, the film becomes boring.
Yet, "Labor Day" is not without redemption; the use of flashbacks throughout separates it from typical love stories. The cinematography evident in these scenes is just right.
Until a little more than midway through the film, the audience has little idea who is present in these flashbacks. Mysterious characters are shown in high-key lighting, a departure from the present day scenes that only adds mystery. The editing also keeps this mystery alive, using quick cuts and short takes before returning to present day.
Performances by Winslet and Brolin were another high point. Winslet's appearance consists of long, floral dresses and seemingly nonexistent makeup. With expressions sometimes suggesting a lack of will to live, Winslet completely gave in to her role as a depressed single mother .
Brolin, too, makes the perfect escaped convict/gentle lover. Pairing a stern voice with a soft demeanor, Brolin makes the audience relate to his character on a personal level. The chemistry between Winslet and Brolin was effortless, to say the least. Although the two must fall in love in two days, their intimacy does not come across as forced or rushed. Winslet's initially blank stare slowly turned into apparent longing for Brolin. Eventually, her eyes held a glow not yet seen by the audience.
Although this film could have been better, it can still go down in the books as a good, believable love story.