Don’t think I have ever seen any literature or movie that captures the essence of a soldiers return from a deployment in a combat zone as well as this movie does. Each person who deploys has a different experience. However, the underlying dynamic is a profound change.
As great is the change of that person during deployment is the change in the family situation they leave behind. They leave a hole in the family that is filled and that filling is solidified over the 12 to 18 month deployment. Yes, those they leave behind are also changed.
This is a change that affects everyone to their very core. Each in a very different and profound way. But profound and to the core never the less. Now take deployment and substitute prison. I will argue that while there are no bullets flying (for the most part) the chronic stress level produces a form of PTSD similar to that of Kelli in the movie return.
Like Kelli, they may be aware of the change but not what has caused it, what forces are at play inside them and what they can do about it. The saddest part of the entire experience is the children that become the road kill in the process.
Just by being born into these situations they are then cast into a life of misery and suffering through no fault of their own. In the case of those children that have mothers who go to prison, their chances of following in the footsteps of the mother are between 47 to 70 percent depending on whose numbers you want to use.
I have done a cut and paste of huge chunks of the review from the Christian Science Monitor in the hopes that it will encourage you to attend. On the first viewing, watch it for the story it is. On the second viewing, watch it as the story of a mother returning from prison.
In many cases, those that return from prison to a home carry the additional burden of guilt and shame which to some degree or another also plagues the families of those left behind.
Review follows: “Kelli (Linda Cardellini) returns to her small Rust Belt hometown after a tour of duty in one of the United States‘ recent wars. She’s glad to be back with husband Mike (Michael Shannon) and two daughters, but, as her attempts to adjust fail, even those relationships begin to fray. Her old friends want to hear war stories, but Kelli isn’t really interested in the subject; her memories are more of tedium than action or heroism.
Everyone is walking on eggshells, and with good reason. Despite her initial sense that she can just go back to how things were, she finds her friends’ everyday chatter unengaging, then trivial and even irritating. The warehouse job she’s held for a decade now strikes her as meaningless; she simply walks away from it. And she also is put off by everyone asking her if she cheated on Mike while overseas.
All foreign wars have their own tales about the tribulations of returning servicemen. Stories about re-turnees trying to reintegrate into what was once their normal world probably predate Homer. In the last century, World War I gave us Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home,” and World War II “The Best Years of Our Lives,” to name two masterpieces. Such stories are all the same, and they are all different.
There are also economic and class issues in play. She and Mike are constantly scrambling to make ends meet; she can’t just take advantage of the GI Bill when her family needs that warehouse salary now. There seems to be no place – professionally or personally – where she’ll fit in. Johnson simply shows us Kelli’s life; the only development that approaches being a resolution is ironic and temporary….”