Adele (Kate Winslet) is a divorced, single mother struggling with severe low self-esteem, trying to care for her sensitive 13-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith). The story takes place over the sizzling Labor Day weekend of 1987 in a small town in New Hampshire.
While shopping at a local store, Adele is suddenly smitten, as if by a thunderbolt. The hunky Thor bolt-holder is bleeding escaped convict Frank (Josh Brolin), who appears from a closet, puts his hand menacingly on Henry’s neck and quietly demands refuge at Adele’s place.
Frank is a killer and, before long, his face is plastered on every pole and all over the TV news. But there’s something smoothing and sincere in his manner that touches Adele’s heart. He even has a gentle way of tying her to a chair and feeding her chili, like he would to a baby. Her cold ex-husband, Gerald (Clark Gregg), never treated her this lovingly.
Frank is also handy. He cleans the house and fixes the gutters. Best of all, he bakes. With his baking comes pearls of wisdom: “Pie crust is a very forgiving thing,” or, “Pay too much attention to recipes and you forget how to feel.”
Adele is hooked, as is Henry, whom Frank teaches to throw a baseball. Convicted killer or not, this is the husband/father they prayed for.
Despite the captive-bondage bit, sex plays little part in the partnership. All we see are two chaste kisses. Which makes for a labored love story.
Based on the Joyce Maynard novel, “Labor Day” is directed by Jason Reitman, who has done far better work (“Juno,” “Thank You for Smoking,” “Up in the Air”).
Frank gets caught, yet love does bloom in the long run. And lovemaking is discreet and off-camera. This is bondage at its most boring.