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LABOR DAY

The Story
Labor Day explores the formidable tug of past mistakes and the chasm of echoing regrets. "This is a romantic drama that you have to piece together as you watch. It's a movie in which you come to understand each character piece by piece not scene by scene," explains Reitman. "This is strangely a movie that is very much about first impressions and how deceiving they can be."

The story is told by Henry as an adult looking back at that pivotal summer of 1987. Thirteen-year-old Henry lives alone with his mother Adele. Adele, recluse, shattered by events that led to her divorce, depends on Henry, not just for basic errands but for companionship. Theirs is a halcyon of a small New England town. Neighbors routinely stop by to say hello and typically walk right in through an unlocked front door. Residents stroll along the main street and converge in its mom and pop shops and cafes. But Adele cannot bring herself to engage in this friendly bustle outside her front porch. She is not totally disconnected from society - her friends and neighbors clearly care about her. It is more that she is just outside of it, no longer an active participant.

"Adele is a single mother living with her young son and she lives a very quiet life. She's slightly separate from society and you don't really know why. She used to be a dancer, she used to be happily married to Henry's father, Gerald...but there's something about this woman that you can't quite put your finger on," says Winslet.

Because Adele relies so heavily on her son, Henry is forced to grow up much quicker than his peers.

"He's stuck in between childhood and adulthood. He can't talk to his mom about what he's going through because she's emotionally distressed and a shut-in. With his dad, he feels like he's no longer a part of his life because he has moved on so he has to take care of his mom and be the man of the house," explains Gattlin Griffith.

It doesn't help that her ex-husband Gerald (Clark Gregg) has so completely reinvented his life. "Gerald is not that connected to his own son and doesn't seem engaged with the boy's life. He has moved on and has this other family. That's certainly something that we've seen a lot in life; people move on and they don't necessarily take care of what is left behind. But then, as the story unfolds, we see the man he once was and the connection that he and Adele once shared, which led to Gerald's own heartbreak when he couldn't take the intensity of their relationship anymore," says Clark Gregg.

As Adele's emotional state continues to deteriorate, Henry's responsibilities as caretaker increase in direct proportion.

"Henry is very protective of his mother and he's always there watching out for anything that could upset her, which doesn't take much," says Griffith.

With the new school year approaching, Henry persuades Adele to leave the house and take him shopping since he's outgrown his clothes. Adele is hesitant and filled with anxiety but she knows she has a responsibility to her son. What neither can predict is that this seemingly routine trip will set forth a series of unexpected and dangerous events that will forever alter the course of their lives.

While shopping, Henry encounters Frank (Josh Brolin), a wounded man who asks for help. Henry is naturally reluctant; there is something intimidating about Frank, aside from the fact that he is a stranger. When Adele tries to politely decline, it becomes clear that Frank won't take no for an answer. "Naturally she's nervous and skeptical as to who this man is and what his motives are but he definitely appears to need some kind of help," says Winslet.

"For whatever reason, she takes him home and I think it's only when she has this stranger in the back of her car, sitting beside her son, that she actually starts to think, 'Okay, what am I actually doing and what kind of danger could we possibly be in?'" explains Winslet.

It is in fact this fortuitous meeting and decision that will alter the course of all their lives.

"When we meet Adele, she is quiet, she has the shakes, her relationship with her son is that he takes care of her and not vice-versa. We get the deep sense that something is missing in her life but we don't know why. When she makes this very implausible decision to comply with this frightening looking guy, we get the sense that there is something in Adele, a history, a beauty, a kind of life just waiting to emerge. Ulimately, we don't know if Frank has been imprisoned justifiably - but he is definitely scary. When we first meet him through Henry, he's got a limp, he's bleeding and sweating. He looks like he is running from something. And it takes the entire movie for us to figure out if we should trust him or not," Reitman explains.

Once they arrive at Adele's, Frank confesses that he is an escaped convict and that he injured himself jumping out a window escaping prison. The gravity of the situation stuns her ... as does the slow revelation that the criminal may not be as horrible as she feared.

"Adele and Henry find themselves in a situation where they have this stranger in their home. Then, this escaped convict starts to reveal his story, who he is, why he's there and that he escaped from prison that morning and weirdly, rather than the fear level increasing for them, it almost decreases as they realize he's actually a decent man. He's a genuine person. Meeting and harboring Frank also begins to reveal who she is really, what happened to her and ultimately explains who she is," says Winslet.

Frank's past collides with the present when news of his escape blares across the television screen, along with his mug shot. Frank reacts by tying up Adele but like everything else about him, all is not what it seems. "With this guy, you don't know from moment to moment if he's actually going to commit some horrible crime while he's in the house with them or if he's the real thing..." explains Josh Brolin.

There is something gentle and strong about Frank, lyrical and tough. He cooks for his "prisoners" and carefully spoonfeeds chili to his bound captive Adele. He prepares breakfast for Adele and Henry. He takes on chores to improve the house. A bond grows between Adele and Frank and Frank and Henry. It becomes clear that Frank is not leaving, nor do his "captives" desire that. Soon he is a welcome part of the family.

"The fact that this guy, who is considered bad begins to have such a positive impact on [Henry and Adele] is what I love about this story," Brolin says

"I think it really shocks her how moved she is to see the extent to which Frank is able to have a really wonderful impact on her son's life and the way he views and does things. Just to be in the space with a male figure in that way for both of them is something very important and special and has been lacking in both their lives. In a way, she and Frank are kindred spirits who have been living in isolation, but due to very different circumstances. They are both splintered souls and that commonality binds them together."

"Henry's not constantly having to look after his mother when Frank's around and Frank's really teaching him how to be a kid and how it feels to have a father around," says Griffith. "When Frank comes into the house, he just brings it all back to life."

The simple act of making a homemade pie becomes the turning point in their relationship. Frank slowly and carefully teaches both Adele and Henry the steps taught to him by his grandmother and elevates baking to an art form. His attention to detail, level of perfection and the loving way he coaches Adele is a defining moment. There's something tender and sensual and palpable about the way Frank is supporting and encouraging Adele. After the pie is assembled, Frank pokes vent holes in the shape of an "A" affectionately after Adele.

"The pie becomes the catalyst and reveals who Frank really is," says Reitman.

How ever lovely the idea of this new family, the reality is that Frank is a man on the run. Adele's recent emotional awakening complicates the situation; usually so stoic and guarded, she is desperate not to lose Frank. The pair's solution is both risky and extreme, laced with hope but ultimately doomed.

"I don't necessarily think their actions are sound but I think their heart's in the right place. They want to start a new life without the weight of consequence following them," notes Brolin.

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