‘Labor Day’ sets engaging tone, but characters don’t ring true

Gattlin Griffith, Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet in ‘Labor Day.’ Rated PG-13, 111 min. Paramount Pictures, 2013.

“Labor Day” calmly and carefully weaves together themes of family, loneliness and awakenings with elements of romance, drama and suspense films. Kate Winslet stars as Adele, a depressed, divorced woman raising her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith). Frank, a possibly dangerous escaped convict (Josh Brolin), seeks aid and shelter in their home, and the three form surprising bonds.

Director Jason Reitman creates an atmosphere in which you can feel both the tension and the sweltering late-summer heat, but not all of the characters’ actions make sense. Brolin and Winslet appear to have a spark, but nothing as incendiary as the excessive sweat on their faces at all times would make it seem.

The back stories of the two romantic leads – presented in brief flashbacks – are not entirely clear, and barely hint at Frank’s and Adele’s motivations in the present day. Perhaps some plot holes and leaps in logic are purposefully written in, since the oddly-structured story is told from Henry’s point of view, and he still sees love and sex as mysteries. Then again, maybe these important elements just failed to make the transition from the novel to the big screen.

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