( the following I wrote was in response to a review that appeared in the Roger Ebert site: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/labor-day-2013 )
I would argue that it’s because technology is so pervasive in our lives today that the most basic elements that can bring us together – like playing toss or changing a tire, or yes – even making a pie from scratch – are things that are absent from the DNA of the current generation of those under 45. Performing simple physical acts, finding joy in physical labor and repeating those on a regular basis…these are things that are missing in that age group today that uses it’s index fingers and thumbs to begin and end connections to other humans. LABOR DAY is a wonderfully executed throw back to the very era of filmmaking and stories that some reviewers criticize.
Dealing with the struggle of a deep depression that Winslet’s character is facing goes way beyond her being ‘a lonely divorcee’. To simplify it that way misses the point of the story entirely: it’s about the forces that bring us together in spite of our flaws and the damages done to our psyches.
The two adult actors are so capable in these leads that they were willing to risk these quieter performances instead of the bombastic hurling-sex-in-our-faces that is more common in film today. The youngest actor in this predominant triad was refreshingly convincing as well: caught in that small window in his pre-teen years, Gatlin Griffith reminded me of seeing Natalie Portman for the first time in The Professonal – a performer to look out for. Directing young actors as well as choosing WHICH of the adult actors will best bring out the chemistry in the required scenes can make-or-break any film. Under Winslet’s confident umbrella of ‘been-there, done-that’, Griffith is able to benefit from her wisdom and gentle influence and it translates for the viewer to our benefit as well.
Reitman has evoked a by-gone style of story telling in LABOR DAY. I had a visceral reaction
that caused trickery of my mind to almost SMELL the font yard with its grasses and car grease, the tension in those retail stores, the thickness of that humid air, and yes – even the peaches coming out of the oven.
Maybe some reviewers need to lock up their laptops and cell phones and hop in a car and drive to the countryside for at least three days, pick up some dirt and let it flow through your fingers to understand how all that feels when the world seems against you and you’ve lost something precious that was taken away forever. LABOR DAY is truly a breath of REAL cinema in all the sea of action films and their drawn out sequels of numbness towards humanity.