I attended the premiere of Labor Day at the Toronto International Film Festival. Most people walked in expecting a Juno/Up in the Air style comedy and if that's what you expect you'll be mildly surprised. The film is darker that Reitman's usual works though you still recognize the director's touch.
The movie tells the story of Adele (Kate Winslet), a woman who slowly shut herself off from the world, relying heavily on her young son Henry (Gattlin Griffith), whose father abandoned them to another wife and other children. Enters a menacing escaped convict (Josh Brolin) who finds refuge with Adele and her son as he tries to remain hidden from the police.
The summary will have you believe that 'the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited.' or that the family realizes they're now prisoners in their own home which makes it sound like the movie is going to be some sort of Panic Room 2 but the story is nothing like that. As Adele and her son get to know the prisoner, they both find the family they've been longing for.
It's a beautiful story despite being somewhat implausible but I found what mattered wasn't the story we see, so much as witnessing the characters finally having a shot at happiness and how the remainder of their days is shaped by this weekend they spent together. This film isn't driven by dialogue as much as Reitman's other films were. The director has said in interviews that he found it challenging to do a movie where there was little dialogue (he actually said without music or dialogue and I walked in half expecting to see a silent film.) He worked around it by having Tobey Maguire narrate the film as an older Henry. The narration works though I think the film could have done without it as well. Don't let the whole 'silent' thing keep you from seeing this film, I found there was enough dialogue, and there is music as well though unlike Juno it doesn't play as a whole hipster soundtrack.
The movie is more subtle yet more raw, slower than his usual films and it lets the actors take us through every emotion. Kate Winslet is a terrific actress and she gave a beautiful performance as Adele, very convincingly portraying a woman who's given up on living. Josh Brolin was great as well, giving us both a tough convict and a soft hearted man at times. Gattlin Griffith was great at a kid who grew up faster than he should. I'm always very iffy when it comes to child actors but he pulled it off very well.
In conclusion, Labor Day is a different, more adult and more mature film from Jason Reitman. It's a nice transitions from his previous comedies and goes a bit deeper than his other films, bringing tension, tears and some laughs. Whether you're already a Reitman fan or not, I recommend this film, you'll be pleasantly surprised.