The film “Labor Day” is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Joyce Maynard and published in 2009. The narrator (Tobey Maguire) tells the story of growing up with a single mother, and particularly of the happenings on a Labor Day weekend in 1987.
Kate Winslet - Wikimedia
Adele (Kate Winslet) had one child, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), followed by three miscarriages and a still born baby, causing her severe depression and anxiety which did not sit well with her husband, who eventually left her. Adele seldom left the house but took excellent care of her son Henry whom she loved dearly.
When they went food shopping for the weekend, a man approached Henry in the grocery store and asked for a ride. Adele, in her mental state, gave the man a ride, and found that he wanted to seek refuge in their home, just until dark that night. He told them that he was serving a prison term when he was diagnosed with appendicitis and was sent to the hospital. He escaped from the hospital by jumping out of a two-story window, hurting his leg. His name was Frank (Josh Brolin).
Josh Brolin - Wikimedia
Frank Comes to their Home
At home, Adele made Frank a cup of coffee while he explained that he would have to tie her to the chair in case the police arrived for him. It would save Adele from being accused of harboring an escaped convict. Frank proceeded to make some chili and spoon-fed it to Adele. It appeared to be safe to untie her bonds at that point, which he did.
Frank proved to be a welcome house guest. He scrubbed and waxed the floor, cleaned the leaves from the gutters, fixed a broken stair, changed a tire, did some ironing, and gradually relieved Adele’s fear of him. She cleaned and bandaged a wound he had in his side from his fall from the hospital window. The television gave regular reports of the escaped convict who was believed to be still in the local area. Frank assured Adele and Henry that he was not as harmful as the television reported him to be. Adele encouraged him to stay with them longer, at least until his wound healed.
Frank taught Henry how to throw a baseball properly, and what stance to take to hit a home run. In return for his kindness to them, Adele taught Frank how to dance. They started to become very much like a family.
Frank Hides from Visitors
Frank was forced to hide when Adele’s neighbor, Evelyn (Brooke Smith), stopped by with her wheelchair-bound son Barry to ask Adele to keep her son for a few hours while she ran a necessary errand. Adele refused at first, but Evelyn’s persistence wore her down. Barry, whose disability did not allow him to speak, stayed. Frank was most solicitous of him and told him they needed a third baseman for their ball game outside. When Evelyn returned, the television news was just flashing Frank’s picture, and Barry started to make a fuss, pointing at the screen. Evelyn reprimanded him, not knowing why he was disturbed, and they left.
Peach Pie - Wikimedia
A Peach Pie
A male neighbor stopped by, bringing a basket of peaches that he had grown. Henry answered the door while Adele and Frank were in another room. Frank showed Adele and Henry how to make a peach pie. All three of them had their hands in the bowl making the pie. It was baked to perfection.
A Move to Canada, Perhaps
By this time, Frank and Adele’s friendship had grown into love. They decided that all three of them would move to Canada. Frank asked Henry to go to the library and bring back some books about Prince Edward Island. At the library, Frank met a pretty little girl, Eleanor (Bridhid Fleming), who questioned him about his choice of books. They became friends. At their next meeting, Eleanor asked about his family, and Henry mentioned that his mother had a boyfriend, and that they were all planning to move to Canada. Eleanor gave Henry the idea that his mother's boyfriend would not want him along, and that he would be left back, for sure.
Frank, Adele, and Henry started cleaning out the house in preparation for their trip to Canada. They packed up all of the items that they wanted to bring with them in cardboard boxes and stored them in Adele’s station wagon. Henry wasn’t sure that he would be going along, and had tears in his eyes. His mother assured him that she would never leave him.
Gattlin Griffith Wikimedia
A Curious Policeman
It was the day after Labor Day, and Henry should have been in school with the rest of the neighborhood students. He walked to his father’s house to leave a note in the mailbox. While he was walking back home, a curious policeman offered to drive him home and Henry accepted reluctantly. The policeman was suspicious of the packed car, but Adele said she was giving a lot of her unneeded items away. Their emptied-out house did not coincide with their story either.
More Suspicions Arise
Adele and Henry went to the bank where Adele wanted to withdraw all of her savings from the bank. The teller became suspicious and called the manager, who also questioned the large withdrawal. After some hesitation, he allowed the transaction.
While Adele and Henry were gone, Evelyn stopped over to give Adele some baked goods that she had made, and walked right in on Frank. Frank said he was just a handyman there, and did not know where Adele had gone. Evelyn left, skeptical of what she had seen and heard.
As the trio were closing up the house, they heard police sirens coming down the street. Frank tied Adele and Henry to kitchen chairs before he stepped outside to surrender to the police. He did not want them to be arrested also. Adele’s attorney would not allow her to testify for Frank in court. It would probably jeopardize her custody of Henry. She wrote letters to Frank when he was returned to prison, but they were all sent back to her unopened. Again, Frank was protecting her from questioning by the authorities.
Tobey Maguire Wikimedia
Henry’s Pie Shop
Frank’s lesson on how to make a pie must have made a strong impression on Henry. Years later, he went into business, opening a pie shop. He received an unexpected letter from Frank who had seen a picture of Henry and his pie shop in a magazine. Frank said he would be released soon and wondered if Adele was still single and if he could get in contact with her. Henry told him that his mother still lived in the same house.
As you would expect, there was a joyful reunion. This film was really uplifting. The viewer feels all along that he/she is rooting for the good guys, not the bad guys. It is satisfying to witness good people finally getting their due, which does not always happen in real life. I loved this film and would give it Roger Ebert’s two thumbs up.
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