Labor Day – Movie Discussion

I didn’t really know what to expect from Labor Day.  Was it going to be suspenseful?  Just how romantic was it going to be?  Was I going to be annoyed because it was overly simplistic and because “love always wins”? Was it going to be tied up with a big proverbial bow?  I’ll be honest; I was half expecting it to be gratuitously romantic and indulgent.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie was romantic, but in a deep, real-love-that-serves kind of way.   In fact, although Hank wasn’t perfect, in many ways he actually reminded me of Jesus.

Recently escaped from jail and injured, Hank needed a place to rest and get himself bandaged up before he hit the run again.  He saw single mother, Adele, and her son, Henry, at a store and forced them to take him home and give him shelter.  Even though he was an escaped convict and desperate, it wasn’t long before Adele and Henry began to trust Hank and know that they were safe with him.

One of my favorites scenes (primarily because of its spiritual application) happened early on.  Henry pointed out that it’s illegal to hide a fugitive.  Hank didn’t want Adele or Henry to suffer any because of him , so in order to protect them, he told Adele that he needed to tie her up.  It was little scary.  This strange man, an escaped con who was in prison for murder, got ropes and bound her to the chair.  And she let him.  He was so gentle and tender as he did it.  He didn’t want to, it was clear, but it was the only way to protect them.  It’s beautiful.  He tied her up, (he didn’t have to tie up Henry, Henry could say he was forced to act to protect his mom), and then he took care of her every need, feeding her dinner as if she was a child.   

It was a beautiful scene.  What he did would normally seem cruel, but it was because he cared.  It was to protect her and Henry.  How many times has God had to do the same thing to us?  How many times has He done or permitted something which seemed cruel, but He did it for our protection, as gentle as possible, and then cared for our every need in the meanwhile?  I have heard countless people tell me of similar stories in their lives—that they were chasing hard after sports, for example, when an injury stopped them in their tracks.  It seemed cruel at the time, painful, disappointing, career-ending and life-altering.  But then they almost always tell me, “but now I see that it was a good thing…”  God provided for them in that time in tender, special ways, and in the end they found what a blessing it was that they were protected from heading down the path they had been travelling.  What a blessing it was their course was altered, their future changed.  It’s something we often resent as it’s happening, but hindsight being what it is, we can see it was a good thing.  That’s why this scene in the movie is so powerful, it so clearly illustrates this truth.  Maybe it will even encourage you when you find yourself restricted and tied down in some way, to trust that God is protecting you and providing for you, even in your unwanted limitation.

Adele had been a reclusive hermit for years.  She was a relatively invisible person, preferring to remain unnoticed.  Hank saw her.  He was captivated by her from the beginning and he began to pursue her (by serving her, as you’ll soon see).  This is how it is with Jesus.  He sees us.  No matter how invisible, how unlovely, how much we try to hide, He still sees us, is captivated by us and pursues us (by serving us). 

Once Hank was in their home, he wasted no time.  You might think he would have begun at once to get what he needed to ensure his safe escape, but that wasn’t his focus.  He chose to not only do his best not to be a burden on Adele and Henry, but to actually be a blessing to them.  He began to serve.  He didn’t ask what needed to be done; he saw it and did it.  He cooked for them, fixed several details on the car, repaired squeaky doors and creaky steps and so on.  The movie is told from young Henry’s perspective—Henry, who had lived most of his life without a dad in the house, who tried, himself, to fill the role of husband for his mom.  (He even gave her a “husband for a day” coupon book.)   He was amazed at the difference in their home once Hank entered.  He couldn’t believe all the things Hank could do and all that he set right. 

Again, I am reminded of Jesus—Jesus who came not to be served but to serve.  Jesus who died on the cross for our sins, who washed his disciples’ feet, who went about during his time on earth healing the sick, forgiving sins, righting wrongs, cleaning up the temple, setting straight false teachers and teachings, feeding the hungry, loving the unloveable, befriending the outcast.  The same Jesus who, when he comes into our lives begins to fix and repair all that is broken in our hearts. 

As Adele began to fall in love with Hank, she became transformed.  Her fears dissipated.  She began to dance and laugh and come alive again.  She began to dream and she even told him her deepest fears and pain.  So it is when we fall in love with Christ, we come alive.  He awakens parts of us that have long been dead, and we trust Him with our deepest pain and sorrow.   

It was a difficult situation, though.  Hank was running from the law and that put everyone in danger.  Adele didn’t care—she just wanted to be with him.  Hank was accused of murder, but it wasn’t what it sounded like—it was an accident.  No matter, he was still accused and the law was determined to make him pay.  They made a plan—the three of them would drive to Canada together.  The police were looking for a man travelling alone, so the three of them would have better luck of getting past road blocks, etc.  It was certainly better for Hank, but he continued to remind Adele of the costs, the dangers, the risks.  Not only would it be dangerous, but she and Henry would have to leave everything and everyone behind. 

Jesus was in a difficult situation when He was on earth.  He too was hunted by the law and therefore those associated with Him were in danger by association.  Jesus was falsely accused and completely innocent.    Those who loved Him were willing to follow Him anywhere, even if it meant to their own imprisonment or death.  Following Jesus is always the right thing to do, but still He cautioned them as He cautions us today—count the cost.  Be prepared because following Jesus is both risky and costly—and whether or not you are persecuted, He says that to follow Him you must be prepared to forsake all else—your possessions, your relationships, your very life.

There are a lot of other good topics for discussion in this movie.  Adele’s life and marriage fell apart because of her miscarriages and fertility challenges.  The two father figures in Henry’s life, Hank and Henry’s real dad are a striking contrast and provide a lot of meat for discussion.  Henry has a very jaded little girl friend who is very wise to the ways of the world.  She is quite the foil to Henry’s innocence and her “voice of reason” is almost Satan-like as she very nearly convinces him that Hank and Adele don’t love him and can’t be trusted. 

Questions for Discussion: 

  • What did you think of the scene when Hank tied up Adele? 
  • Have you ever felt God allowed you to be “tied up” for a season to protect you from something?
  • How did Hank show love to Adele?  How do you think Hank would define love? 
  • What do you think about the way Hank served Adele?  Is that your idea of romance?  Do you think a love like that is passionate or lame?
  • How do you think Hank’s love matches up to the Bible’s idea of love?  To the way Jesus loves? 
  • Adele had been nearly invisible, but Hank saw her and loved her.  How does it make you feel that Jesus sees you and loves you—no matter how invisible or unlovely you may think you are? 
  • How did love transform Adele? 
  • How would it transform you to know (and really believe) that Jesus loves you so much He died for you and He wants to be in relationship with you? 
  • Would you have been willing to go with Frank, and leave your whole life behind and start over?
  • Jesus says we should count the costs if we are going to follow Him.  What are the things that you have (or would have) a hard time letting go of?   

 by Stacey Tuttle

Click here to read a collection of quotes from Labor Day.