This post-war domestic drama is well made, even if it eventually meanders into nothingness.
Soldiers struggle when they come home from war. This fact lies at the heart of Liza Johnson's melancholy debut feature which tells the story of Kelli (played by Linda Cardellini of ER and Freaks and Geeks fame) who comes back from a tour of duty to find she's out of step with civilian life.
The film begins with hope. Kelli meets her daughters and husband at the airport, they kiss and drive home along a familiar road that takes her closer to the life she's missed. It's a place where people scrimp and save, watch Jerry Springer and spend evenings in local bars gossiping about their boyfriends. Balloons and a barbecue await her arrival home, but after the first few scenes, it's clear Kelli is far from coping.
Comfort comes in the form of another war veteran, ex-Vietnam soldier Bud (John Slattery), who understands how Kelli feels. His life has been similarly derailed by war and he too is cynical towards his prospects of slinking back in to civilian society.
Cardelilini convinces as a working-class mother who returns to a factory job and a philandering husband in small town America. She wrestles with notions of apathy over her western life, yet she definitely doesn't want to go back to war. The film makes a plea for governments to offer better care for returning troops. The problem, though, is the plot offers nothing new. Jarhead, The Hurt Locker and The Deer Hunter all explore the trials of readjusting to civilian life, and all do it with a lot more punch.
The signs of post traumatic stress disorder coarse through the film. Footsteps crunch over gravel, taps squeal when turned, a car door closing sounds like a mighty slap. There are no songs in the film so the natural background noise becomes its jarring soundtrack, giving the impression Kelli is hyper aware to the threat of attack.
There's no defining moment and no resolve at the end, only a gritty portrayal of how soldiers must feel in their post war lives. And a sense that you've seen this movie before.
Small-scale drama concerning troops returning from war. Doesn't sound like a laughriot.
Well acted, well made and with some nice technical touches, even if it eventually meanders into nothingness.
As hounourable as its intentions are, the feeling of been there, done that pervades.