Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Labor Day Adoption Movie Guide

Adele is a depressed, single mother raising her young teenage son Henry in late-1980’s rural New Hampshire. While they are out shopping, Frank, a bloodied man, confronts Henry and uses Henry to impose on Adele for a ride. Once in Adele’s car, Henry demands that she take him to her own home. He shortly reveals that he has escaped from prison, where he was held for murder, although he maintains that the killings were accidental. Frank remains in their home for several days, hiding from the police. He quickly becomes part of the family, becoming a father figure to Henry and a husband figure to Adele. Frank and Adele plan to escape together to Canada with Henry, and to start a new life. Regardless of what the future holds, Henry’s and Adele’s lives are changed by their relationships with this dangerous stranger.

The Adoption Connection

Frank does develop a sense of caring for Henry, and Henry bonds to Frank very quickly. Many kids in foster care do seek to bond very quickly with adults who are kind to them, and this isn’t always safe.

Positive Elements

Frank does not live up to all of the stereotypes that might be held of an escaped convicted murderer. He is gentle to a boy with disabilities and patient and affirming to Henry. As his story is gradually revealed, Frank is shown to be not quite as dangerous as he initially seemed.


A girl suggests that it’s very easy to lie to authorities to get unliked adults in trouble.

A series of miscarriages led to the breakup of Adele’s first marriage.

Negative Elements

There are some very disturbing aspects to this film. Frank uses Henry to coerce Adele. Frank ties Adele up on two occasions. Frank and Adele both encourage Henry to lie and to keep secrets. There are lots of problems with Frank’s relationship with Adele.

Frank and Adele intend to have Henry leave all of his friends behind without even a farewell, because it suits their needs better.
One character strikes a physically disabled child.


While there is a benefit in challenging stereotypes, there are a lot of problems with Labor Day. Abusive relationships, infertility-fueled infidelity, scenes which threaten and sometimes depict prolonged domestic violence, and the negative ways in which Frank attempts to manipulate Henry are all very likely to be triggering or traumatic for some viewers. This one is probably a “skip” for most viewers, and a particularly risky choice for kids and most teens.

Questions for Discussion

Have any adults ever tried to make you do things you thought were wrong?

How can you tell whether someone is safe or dangerous to be around?

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