I remember watching an unintentionally creepy WTF romance movie

Labor Day Jason Reitman is a 2013 drama film starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. Based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard, the story follows 13-year-old Henry Wheeler (Gattlin Griffith) who is already struggling with the difficulties of entering puberty but is under additional pressure to look after himself to take care of his lonely, recently divorced mother, Adele (Winslet).

When her husband leaves her, Adele becomes depressed, lonely and a bit withdrawn, but who can blame her? She longs for love and does not expect what will follow her. Almost ten years after its release, we’re still equally fascinated and repelled by this strange love story. In honor of the generally unrelated holiday the film is named after, let’s take a look at what the heck is going on here Labor Day.

A killer who makes the perfect husband

Labor Day Movie
Paramount Pictures

Adele may be a recluse, but she still takes her son shopping for school supplies. One day, while out shopping just before Labor Day weekend, they meet Frank Chambers (Brolin), who is bleeding, stressed out and has a stomach wound; Intimidating and quite creepy, he convinces Adele that he needs help and that they will take him home. “How could she say no?” we asked sarcastically.

They immediately leave the audience stunned by this utterly unrealistic reality, wondering what on earth is going through Adele’s mind, although we can’t always turn our heads when someone needs help. This time, however, it was the wrong choice and it quickly turns out that Frank is a convict who has just escaped from prison and is the subject of a manhunt.

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As it turned out, Frank was actually serving an 18-year sentence for murder. He has Adele take him to his house and, with a strange dose of seduction, ties her to a chair, the instruction giving him the impression of a romantic gesture. He explains that if they get caught, she can tell the police that she was kidnapped. Frank essentially holds them both hostage and begins to blend into their lives. He’s barely been there a day and he basically takes on the role of husband and father, which is hilariously odd. Sure, he’s not half bad at it, but it’s utterly odd how quickly they become totally comfortable with a suspected murderer roaming the house.

He killed his wife but bakes a mean cake

Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet bake cakes in the movie Labor Day
Paramount Pictures

Frank begins baking cakes, doing laundry, and teaching Henry how to play baseball. The film begins by portraying Frank as the perfect husband, despite being a convicted criminal allegedly holding a mother and her son hostage. Labor Day is shot with lots of sentimentality and sugary melodrama, like a Lifetime movie, in which Adele and Frank develop a passionate love for each other as if it were a normal romantic drama. From filmmaking to music, camera work and acting, everything is included Labor Day belies the fact that this is ridiculous and terrifying.

To trust Frank when in doubt, it becomes clear why he was in prison for murder. Through flashbacks, we witness a younger Frank who has just found out that his wife has been cheating and that his baby is most likely not his. When he confronts her about this, the conversation heats up and he pushes her, causing her to fall, banging her head on a radiator and dying. Setting aside the fact that he held a woman and her son hostage in their home and oddly integrated himself into her life without her permission, he probably didn’t deserve a life sentence for physically assaulting his wife and accidentally killed.

Adele is desperate (or crazy) on Labor Day.

Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet bake cakes in the movie Labor Day
Paramount Pictures

Frank is portrayed in the film as a lovable, fatherly and charming character, although as you know, he accidentally killed his wife, escaped from prison and took hostages. The movie just doesn’t see bad things in it, leading to extremely creepy and weird scenes where Frank cooks delicious-looking food like chili and happily spoon-feeds it to Adele while she’s still tied to a chair. Has no one asked what’s going on with Adele? Is this a romantic drama or a study in mental illness? If he actually managed to escape from prison, wouldn’t she be wondering how their relationship would even work out? He’s a wanted man who turned up unexpectedly.

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Perhaps one could guess that Adele is desperate; Her husband has left her, she is completely alone, and when a strong, handsome man who can bake and cook bursts into her life, is good to her son, is loving and even does the laundry, she rushes straight into life . Not only is that condescending and demeaning to women, it’s just a stupid narrative choice. Certainly baking cakes doesn’t make up for the whole murder/prison/hostage thing.

Josh Brolin teaches baseball to Kate Winslet in the movie Labor Day
Paramount Pictures

Basically, there’s nothing right about Adele and Frank’s relationship; He may be the “perfect husband,” but the way he’s gone about it is still utterly uncanny. Yes, Frank is bringing Adele out of her reclusive rut, he’s on great terms with Henry and has actually started a new family out of them, but he’s almost too sympathetic, seemingly unaffected by his many years in prison and at a loss at the horrific situation in which he’s created with this new, weird little family.

It was inevitable that Frank would end up being caught and sent back to prison with an additional sentence for being kidnapped. Although Adele tries to convince the police that she has not been kidnapped, she watches as he is taken away. As we watch her heart break, it becomes clear that we are not dealing with a beautiful, unrequited love story, but with a mentally ill woman worn out by despair.

Happy Labor Day.

Lindsay Lowe

Lindsay Lowe is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Lindsay Lowe joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: LindsayLowe@worldtimetodays.com.

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