Labor Day

image for Labor Day

Short takes

Short takes: Not suitable under 13, parental guidance recommended 13-15 due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Labor Day
  • a review of Labor Day completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 11 February 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to violence and disturbing themes and scenes.
Children aged 13 to15 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing themes and scenes.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Labor Day
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes and sexual references
Length: 111 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Based on the book by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day is a story told by an adult Henry Wheeler (Tobey Maguire) remembering a time when he was 13 years old and an escaped convict spent the five day holiday weekend with him and his mother Adele (Kate Winslett).  Adele and Henry (Gattlin Griffith) had been on their own for some years since Henry’s father Gerald (Clark Gregg) left Adele for another woman. Adele has suffered depression since and rarely leaves her home except for a monthly shopping visit.

It is on one of these visits that a badly injured Frank (Josh Brolin), having jumped out of a hospital window to escape prison, approaches Henry and persuades Adele to give him a lift to their home. Adele tends to his wounds and Henry fits right in, cooking, cleaning, mending things around the house and teaching Henry to play baseball. The police are on constant lookout for Frank so he has to be careful. In the short time that he is there, Frank and Adele fall in love and plan to escape to Canada but their plans go sadly awry.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Dysfunctional families; step-families; loss and grief; depression

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Frank appears with blood on his t-shirt and face and when Adele is reluctant to take him in her car he places his hand around Henry’s neck in a threatening manner.
  • Frank ties Adele’s hands and feet to make it look as if he had broken into her house.
  • Frank grabs Adele by the throat when there is a knock at the door.
  • In a flashback Frank hits his wife because he’s seen her with another man. She falls over and hits her head and dies.
  • A neighbour brings her autistic son Barry around for Adele to look after. Barry tries to tell his Mum about Frank but she thinks he’s being naughty and slaps him. 

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Adele and Henry are scared by Frank at first as he looks like a hard man and behaves in a threatening way.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

This age group could also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Frank tells about how he jumped out of a window escaping from prison.
  • The news on the television reports that Frank is a convicted criminal and is serving 18 years for murder.
  • Frank’s wife is shown dead on the floor. The bath is shown overflowing and it’s inferred that his baby drowned.
  • The wound on Frank’s stomach opens up and looks quite nasty.
  • Henry tells Eleanor that they’re going to Canada and she guesses that they’re harbouring Frank. She tells Henry the story of Bonnie and Clyde and how they were killed by federal agents and there was blood everywhere. Henry imagines his Mum and Frank being shot in the car by the police, with him hiding in the back seat.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group could also be concerned by some of the above mentioned scenes. In addition:

  • Adele tells Frank about several miscarriages she has had which are shown in flashback. This starts with Adele getting severe stomach cramps then ending up on the toilet with blood running down her legs.
  • One baby she does carry to full term is still-born and Adele is shown cradling her dead baby.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Ritz biscuits
  • Coppertone
  • Cheerios
  • Coke, Fanta, Sprite
  • Quik

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Henry makes Adele a voucher book for her birthday to be ‘husband for the day’. As an adult he refers to the fact that he was too young to understand the full implications of this.
  • Adele talks to Henry about sex – how it feels to ‘hunger for human touch’ and feel desire.
  • Henry meets Eleanor (Brighid Fleming) who tells Henry she’s been sent to live with her Dad because her Mum has a new boyfriend and wants her out of the house so that they can have sex. Eleanor tells Henry that sex affects the brain and acts like a drug.
  • Gerald’s stepson Richard (Lucas Hedges) tells Henry that people might think he’s gay if he takes up dancing.
  • When Richard’s Mum says she thinks that if she were still in school she’d think that Richard and Henry were both cute, he tells her he wouldn’t have been born then and it would be incest anyway.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • A flashback shows Frank and a young woman briefly having sex but they have their clothes on.
  • Henry and Eleanor kiss briefly.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Some drinking in a bar.

Coarse language

Nothing of concern

In a nutshell

Labor Day is a melodramatic, romantic movie which shows the vulnerability of lonely, single women. It is filmed in beautiful locations and this helps to balance the sadness of the story. Despite having a 13 year old boy as a main character, the themes and disturbing scenes make the film unsuitable for children and younger teens might also find it disturbing.

The main messages from this movie are to not accept things on face value but to seek out the truth and also the power of the strong bond between mother and son.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • supportiveness
  • acceptance
  • selflessness
  • love and compassion

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • walking out on your family when things becomes difficult.
  • allowing a stranger into your car and home.
  • harbouring a fugitive.