By Steven Rea
The Philadelphia Inquirer
This is a different sort of Kate Winslet than we’ve come to expect.
In “Labor Day”, a romance, a drama, and a woman’s fantasy of what men, perhaps, should be, the British actress plays Adele Wheeler, a fragile, frightened single mother too wary of the outside world to even get in the car and drive to the market.
The year is 1987, the place a small New Hampshire town. Adele’s 13-year-old boy (a very good Gattlin Griffith) has assumed many of the domestic responsibilities. There’s even an Oedipal tinge to their relationship.
Then, everything changes when a stranger, with a limp and a bloody hole in his stomach, enters the Wheelers’ quiet, tamped-down world. He’s an escaped convict (played by Josh Brolin), and over the course of director Jason Reitman’s film, adapted from the Joyce Maynard novel, Winslet’s broken bird, Adele, takes flight again.
“I hadn’t played a character who was so the opposite of the sort of strong, strident, more obviously passionate women that I think I’ve played in the past,” says Winslet, who has been nominated for six Oscars, winning the best actress trophy for her role in “The Reader” as a Nazi concentration camp guard trying to conceal her past in 1950s Germany.
“I was keen to explore somebody who was much more introverted and fragmented,” she says. ” … I was fascinated by that. I had played mothers, but I hadn’t really played a single mother to a son of that age. And that’s a particularly interesting dynamic. …
“Also, I was drawn to the unexpected nature of the love story, which I found very moving.”
“Labor Day,” which premiered in September at the Toronto International Film Festival and landed Winslet a best actress Golden Globe nomination in December, opened in theaters Friday.