When you think of romances you probably automatically think of romantic comedies, those assumed “chick-flicks”. You do this for good reason: most romantic movies fall into the romantic comedy category; any that doesn’t automatically fall into the melodramatic category (the Notebook and its ilk). However, what is there was a third category? A category which took its romance seriously in the context of the absurdity of life? Well then you might think that this kind of film would be off-beat, something which differentiates itself from the crowd. And you would be right.
This is why I found Labor Day to be refreshing. Unlike romantic comedies or the melodramatic, sentimental films, Labor Day is a romantic-drama of a mature caliber. It follows a woman shut-in and her son as they encounter, after a typical day shopping, a wanted man who inserts himself into their lives under incredible circumstances (a prison escape). During the weekend they bond and fall in love. Of course, since this is not a fantasy, the man is caught and sent to jail for twenty-five years. The woman waits for him in despair while the son gets on with his life, trying his best to put behind him the events of the past. The film culminates with our inmate-lover sending a letter to the fully gown boy asking about him and his mother; the mother meets the inmate hen he is released from prison and they live happily ever after.
Obviously Labor Day retains some of the melodrama in its depiction of a fairy-tale(ish) ending, but the important thing, for me, is that it only did so after the realistic demand (the male-lead being arrested) had been satisfied. In the context of the careful character building, however, this ending worked as the natural solution to the pragmatic personality of the inmate, the mentally wrecked traits of the mother, and the protective-submissive one of the son. The connections linked up in such a way that the story and concept of a man imprisoned under pretexts of grey worked to its strengths while the weaknesses of the genre were absorbed back into the film as the quirky parts. Nothing in this sense if over-done, nor does the director try too hard. Just the right amount of effort is put into the film and I for one couldn’t think it could be better. If you want a romance of a different caliber then this is the one for you.