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By Jess Fenton
2nd February 2014

Forbidden love stories are gobbled up by romance lovers of all ages - but when they spread from the pages of an airport paperback to the big screen, a very fine line is drawn and rarely mastered in creating a substantial and heart-melting film. Jason Reitman, the screenwriter and director behind ‘Thanks For Smoking’ and ‘Up In The Air’ has given us a rare glitch in his résumé as he too treads this line and flounders.

‘Labor Day’, based on the book of the same name, is narrated by Henry (Toby Maguire), a young boy who lives with his anxiety-ridden and borderline agoraphobic mother, ailments that have plagued her ever since her husband left her for his secretary and started a new family. According to Henry (Gattlin Griffith), Adele (Kate Winslet) simply gave up on love after his father left and it’s left her crippled, but this is the reality as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old. There’s so much he doesn’t see. Out on their monthly pilgrimage into town for supplies, Henry and Adele are approached by Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped convict in need of a place to lie low. Promising a non-violent interaction, the trio spend Labor Day weekend within the confines of their home, forming an everlasting bond as they each find something desperately needed in each other.


While the journey as to how these characters wound up in this place and time is important, you find yourself caring less and less as the film moves on and the love story takes precedent, and yet it still must be told. Reitman clearly realises this himself, attempting to incorporate it through seamless editing and the incorporation of the past in a non-linear yet fluid way to parallel and juxtapose the present. But when the holes have to be filled and the avalanche of backstory falls, everything goes downhill and ends with groans from the audience as we’re flooded with answers to long-forgotten and now redundant questions.

Reitman does his best to de-soap this story but it suffers under his own screen-writing, something that comes as quite a shock given his past films, and quite frankly the story itself - an escaped convict and a lonely single mother is the stuff of impulse-purchase romance novels, not great cinema.

The talented cast give subtle and warm performances to enjoy, but the film just doesn’t deliver as a love story for the ages, nor as one to stay with you.

RELEASE DATE: 06/02/2014
RUN TIME: 1h 51m
CAST: Kate Winslet
Josh Brolin
Tobey Maguire
Clark Gregg
James Van Der Beek
SCORE: Rolfe Kent
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