Labor Day
Credit: Dale Robinette
  • Movie

The guy who is bleeding from his side needs help. But he’s not asking – he’s telling.

That’s the setup for the simmering drama Labor Day, starring Josh Brolin as an escaped convict who takes shelter with the mentally fragile, reclusive single-mom Adele (Kate Winslet) and her almost-teenage son (Changling’s Gattlin Griffith) over the course of one long late-summer holiday weekend in the mid-1980s.

Whether they are helpers or hostages is a question even in their own minds. Brolin’s Frank Chambers displays a tenderness toward the frightened mother and son, but the relentless news reports on TV describe him as dangerous — and he isn’t exactly forthcoming about what landed him in prison in the first place.

In this first image released from the film, a simple knock at the door sets everyone’s nerves on edge.

“It’s an immediate reminder of the danger that’s in the house,” says director Jason Reitman, who also adapted the screenplay from Joyce Maynard’s 2009 novel.

Is Brolin’s grip meant to keep Winslet safe, or keep her quiet? “That image is meant to say both things at the same time,” Reitman says. “There is an undeniable bond, they’re both scared, but they both seem to need each other.”

Or they might just be the worst thing in the world for each other.

“The first time I read the book I imagined this moment, this shot, this frame, the way he holds her, with the kid in the background,” the filmmaker tells EW. “And we would see the neighbor [Reitman regular J.K. Simmons] through the window, so the audience would feel danger, but at the same time a desperation for Frank and Adele to be together.”

Reitman is known for acidly funny film such as Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air, and Young Adult, but this one is a step in another direction. “There’s no cynicism in this movie. There’s no irony in this movie,” he says. “This one is dramatic, romantic, and has moments of being a thriller — all new things for me. It felt like making my first movie again.”

Labor Day opens in theaters Dec. 25.

Labor Day
  • Movie
  • 110 minutes
  • Jason Reitman