Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel is responsible for the story here. Or more accurately, is responsible for bringing us one of the most detailed and harrowing pieces of work on the subject of what it is like for war veterans after they return home. PTSD has now become something we all know. A large percentage of soldiers involved in conflict suffer from it. They return home and are hailed as heroes for about five minutes then they have to try to readjust to life with precious few services in place to help them. These are men and women who have gone through and seen hell on Earth. And we fail them. We ask them to place their lives in jeopardy, many of them lose their lives or limbs as a result, then do not provide them with jobs, social services, adequate health care or psychological help when they come back to civilian life. It is so jarring an adjustment that many of them choose to return to war. Return to hell because that is what they know. Sad.
Thank You for Your Service is a very tongue in cheek title as we don’t really thank them and this movie illustrates that. Clearly and, at times, painfully. If you are not sad and angry after watching this then you are heartless or were just not paying attention. This is a work of fiction based on the reality for returning soldiers in many places around the world. Not just in the United States, but that is the country taken to the mat here. The psychological damage of war on soldiers is as plain as the nose on Barbra Streisand’s face here. A large majority of them need help once they return and they don’t get it. We have to do better providing it and removing the stigma they feel for asking for help.
A group of American soldiers are returning from their tour in Iraq. They are greeted stateside by their thankful families and friends. That celebratory mood lasts about five minutes then reality sets in for the soldiers and their loved ones.
There is not not a bad performance to be found in this film and that includes director/screenwriter Jason Hall (first film). Shows he is not afraid to criticize the VA and other services that are supposed to be helping soldiers once they get home. It is a political film, but not in the way war films usually are.
It is not your typical war film. Only a little action in the flashback sequences. Hall has really focused on what happens when soldiers return home. The war scenes are just to give us a taste of what they go through. Brings to the screen the life of a modern professional soldier. Tightly focuses on what their lives are like once they try to fit back into their lives. A short film that does not stray from the subject.
Adam Schumann (Miles Teller – Whiplash, Insurgent), Tausolo Aieti (Beulah Koale – from television’s Hawaii Five-O) and Billy Waller (Joe Cole – from television’s Peaky Blinders) served in the same unit and return to the same town. All are damaged to differing degrees. All need help, but don’t know where to turn.
Adam returns to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett – The Girl on the Train, Marley & Me) and their two kids. He seems okay at first but then the signs of psychological problems based on what he saw and guilt he feels about what happened in Iraq surface. Without a job, he will not get his family back into the house that they used to live in before and he desperately wants to return to. As for the psychological help he needs, Adam cannot get any of his veteran benefits quickly unless he shows signs of real damage like being violent or suicidal.
Billy does not even get that far as upon his return he discovers his house empty. Going to his wife’s work, he finds out she does not want him back. Unable to handle it, he kills himself right there in the bank she works at.
Tausolo is also not doing well. Without a job and his wife (Keisha Castle-Hughes – Whale Rider, The Nativity Story) pregnant, he is at the end of his rope. Desperate, taking drugs and prone to violent outbursts, he turns to a fellow veteran (Omar J. Dorsey – from television’s Ray Donovan), who asks Tausolo to do some sketchy things.
Both sides of the problem are shown. From the returning soldiers’ perspectives and their wives. The damage done to both. PTSD, dealing with not having jobs, families that have moved on in one way or another without them, and not really remembering how they fit in are just some of the problems returning soldiers face. While their kids and wives try to adjust to men who are changed from what they remember them to be and adjusting to fitting them back into their lives.
Some might find the film a little slow, but for those who show some patience and allow thing to unfold naturally, the payoff will be worth it. It truly is a call to action to help those men and women who truly deserve it.
-Staging a War
-The Battle at Home