Film review: Labor Day

The heat of unexpected passion scorches two lost souls in Jason Reitman’s handsome adaptation of the novel by Joyce Maynard.

Embellished with a present-day voiceover that harks back to events of one sweltering summer in 1987, Labor Day woos us with stirring performances, Eric Steelberg’s sun-dappled cinematography and Rolfe Kent’s elegiac orchestral score.

Undated Film Still Handout from LABOR DAY. Pictured: (l-r) Kate Winslet as Adele, Josh Brolin as Frank and Gattlin Griffith as Henry. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Paramount. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.

Undated Film Still Handout from LABOR DAY. Pictured: (l-r) Kate Winslet as Adele, Josh Brolin as Frank and Gattlin Griffith as Henry. See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Paramount. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews.

Scenes between Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin as the doomed lovers simmer with eroticism, including a glorious set-piece with a homemade peach pie that makes our mouths water.

Fifteen-year-old Gattlin Griffith is equally compelling as the painfully shy teenage son, who witnesses this mending of broken hearts in impossible circumstances.

Yet for all of its impressive qualities – and they are bountiful – Labor Day isn’t quite the sum of its parts. The condensed timeframe of the central romance strains credibility and Reitman’s mosaic of flashbacks creates a fractured chronology that hampers dramatic momentum, dissipating the sense of dread and longing that should permeate every frame.