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The Year That Trembled (2002)

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The Year That Trembled is a 1970 coming-of-age story set in the shadow of Kent State that focuses on a group of young characters facing the Vietnam Draft Lottery.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Casey Pedersen
Jim 'Hairball' Morton
Isaac Hoskins
Judy Woods
Matt Salinger ...
Professor Jeff Griggs
Todd Franklin
Sascha Stanton Craven ...
Bill Clark (as Sascha Stanton-Craven)
Helen Kerrigan
Frank Woods
Phil Robbins
T.J. Hellmuth ...
Carl Bumpers
Col. Mike Newman
Charlie Kerrigan
Ralph Tyler
Wayne Simonelli


The Year That Trembled is a 1970 coming-of-age story set in the shadow of Kent State that focuses on a group of young characters facing the Vietnam Draft Lottery.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


When passions ignited a nation. When choices became a matter of life and death. See more »


Drama | Romance | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some drug use




Release Date:

22 March 2002 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


At the Cincinnati International Film Festival in 2002, the movie won both the People's Choice Award and the Best Regional Film Award. See more »

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User Reviews

Once the film zeroes in on the main characters and plot events, it grabs your attention and hangs on.
15 April 2002 | by See all my reviews

Helen Gardner (Marin Hinkle) teaches at a high school near Kent State University. She is an activist against the war in Vietnam, as are some of her students. On May 4, 1970, they hear news of the shootings at Kent State. As a result of her activities, Helen is fired from her job. She marries a young aspiring lawyer (Jonathan M. Woodward) who throws his energy into a legal suit on behalf of those students who were shot.

Four of Helen's senior students (Jonathan Brandis, Charlie Finn, Sean Nelson, and Lucas Ford) graduate and rent a farmhouse next door to their former teacher and her husband. We follow these people, as well as others they become involved with, for the next year as they stave off the law, protest the war, and try to make some beginning in life while facing the likelihood of being drafted and sent to Vietnam.

The title comes from a poem from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass".

"YEAR that trembled and reel'd beneath me!/ Your summer wind was warm enough-yet the air I breathed froze me;/ A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd me;/ Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself;/ Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled?/ And sullen hymns of defeat?"

Jay Craven captures in drama the times and the concerns that "Hair" captured as a musical, as he focuses on one of the pivotal events of that time--the shooting of students at Kent State--and how that event and the war that spawned it, affected others in the surrounding communities.

He skillfully interweaves stock footage of film and tv broadcasts from that period, with the fictional lives of some young people (and some old) who were closely connected with those events and were trying to figure out how to relate to a society that seemed to have lost its way.

But the film is not abstractly political, keeping its attention on the personal concerns of the characters in all their ambivalence. Jonathan Brandis, in particular, brings a strong screen presence to his role as the point-of-view character in an ensemble cast, and Charlie Finn provides engaging comic relief as the goofy, but believable, Jim "Hairball" Morton. Henry Gibson, Fred Willard, and Martin Mull show the sympathetic–if not altogether trustworthy–other side of the generation gap that had split along some fault-line in time.

The film is somewhat structurally unfocused in its early part. It took a while to get a sense of each character–longer than can be afforded in a feature film, I'd say. Hairball, for example, at first seemed simply awkward as an actor, rather than goofy as a character. Jay R. Ferguson was excellent in his crucial role, but could have gotten the same effect with less screen time. Others could have been given shorter shrift or perhaps no shrift at all.

But once the film zeroes in on the main characters and plot events, it grabs your attention and hangs on.

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