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The Way We Get By
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Way We Get By More at IMDbPro »

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32 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

A Powerful Story of the Human Struggle with our own Mortality

Author: JustCuriosity from Austin, TX, United States
15 March 2009

The Way We Get By had its World Premiere at SXSW in Austin, TX. It is a beautiful film about the lives of 3 senior citizens who volunteer to greet soldiers leaving and returning through Bangor International Airport in Maine. The story is essentially apolitical, and while it starts with their shared experience of the seniors and the soldiers it goes beyond those events to explore the seniors' lives, families, and even their pets. It becomes clear that their work is both an act of kindness and patriotism, but also a simultaneously a search for the meaning and purpose of their lives as they age and struggle with their own mortality in their waning years. The relationship between the soldiers and the greeters is symbiotic as they both benefit from the experience. Ironically, both the young soldiers and the seniors are struggling with their own mortality as ponder the possibility of death. For the seniors this is an imminent fact of life, while the soldiers face a more intangible threat knowing that some of them will not return.

The filming is quite well done as the eloquent and powerful story unfolds and a small world of which most of us are unaware emerges. The human cost of the war is revealed as we see the effects of the separation of war on the soldiers' lives. We are allowed to see both the seniors and the soldiers and as humans. This film deserves a wider audience (which it will get when it runs on PBS's POV), because we all need to understand the human toll of war. The young also need to gain a better understanding of aging which is a subject that we often try not to think about. This film brings together two of the most important challenges that modern America faces – war and aging – to present us with pain of both of experiences. The film was clearly a labor of love and the film makers' efforts are worthy of recognition for helping create a space for us to confront the meaning of our own lives and attempt to grapple with the meaning of death. The elderly greeters are well-developed and unique characters whom we come to know through the film makers loving embrace of their stories and their struggles.

This is fascinating documentary that deserves a wider audience.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

How do you get by?

Author: Ethan Cox from United States
13 December 2009

I was not prepared for this film. It is really hard to handle.

I'd like to say that this film is in-your-face, but without the usual vulgar connotation that comes with the label. Instead, the film is in-your-face in that it is relentless. It refuses to soften anything, or candy coat it. It's like an icy cold shot of truth into your bloodstream. This movie hands you your mortality on a platter and says, "Here ya go, deal with it." The film follows the stories of the Maine Bangor International Airport Troop Greeters. Bangor International Airport is the first major airport coming into the country and the last going out. The greeters focused on are elderly men and women, some of them veterans, who have dedicated their lives to thanking those who serve.

The two things I walked away from this movie with were an overwhelming pride of being American (i had a strong urge to run out there and hug a soldier myself), and a depressing fear of old age.

I cried a lot during this movie, toward the end. If you've never thought a lot about growing old, losing everything, losing everyone, then you should see this movie.

Really, it wasn't just about troops at all. It was about our own deaths here at home. It was about depression among the elderly. It was about how you deal with death. Hence the title The Way We Get By.

I think it's important too, because nowadays it seems there's so much negativity about America. What this movie made me realize is that even if you don't support the war, the least you can do is support a soldier. Even if you hate this country, love it for allowing you to hate it. I appreciate this country so much, I feel so blessed to live here, and this movie made me feel so much more patriotic than I think I ever have felt.

How do you deal with death? How do you deal with watching your brothers and sisters walk off into a battlefield? How do you deal with watching your body deteriorate, your friends and family and lovers disappearing, until all you're left with is a memory of a slowly crumbling past? How do you get by? I highly encourage you to see this movie.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

"The Way We Get By" will have you laughing and tearing up all at the same time.

Author: Jack Sessna from United States
6 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Aron Gaudet and Gita Pillapully brings us this heartwarming documentary chronicling the lives of three Marine greeters at the Bangor International Airport in Bangor, Maine.

Bill, Joan and Jerry get up in the middle of the night to the crack of dawn to greet, as well as wish good luck upon, the servicemen and women departing and arriving to the battlefields in the Middle East. In between greeting the men and women of the Marines, the three face their own trials and tribulations.

Bill is 82. He's been diagnosed with prostate cancer as well as tumors on his ribs and jaw. He lives alone and his sadness for being alone is unmatched. He seems to find solace in greeting the men and women returning from service.

Jerry has his own set of troubles. He lost his son when he was only ten, his heart isn't what it used to be and his only companion, a dog named Flannigan, is taken from him after a long term illness. After all he's been through, however, he still finds time to get up and greet and entertain the hundreds of Marines that walk through the gate at Bangor International.

Finally, Joan, a grandmother who's two grandchildren are off to serve in the Army, suffers from chronic back pains and a disliking to seeing the soldiers off, still takes her time to travel to the airport and greet them.

A story like "The Way We Get By" gives us a glimpse into the lives of three ordinary, elderly people who forgo any and all of their troubles to give the returning and departing servicemen and women a chance to hear "welcome home". And it's people like Bill, Joan and Jerry who show us what it means to be a true American, who show us that a bumpersticker saying "Support the Troops" isn't enough. Because if they can take time out of their days to stand and wait for the troops to come home, then anyone can, and this film is evidence of that.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

This Movie Does Affect People

Author: laura-grace-1345 from United States
16 November 2011

After watching The Way We Get By today as a presentation, and then being able to meet Joan and Gerald, this movie really does put a perspective on things. The main reason I am writing this is because I saw a review that said to 'not waste your money' and that it would be better spent buying gas and going to a nursing home where you might actually be able to help make someone's day better.

In response to that review I would like to say, this movie does help change people's views on everything. Learning about the struggles that people go through makes you concerned for the elderly and learning how much it means to the troops to be welcomed back by a loving group of people who are thankful makes you smile. The troop greeters do change the troops lives. They give them something to look forward to when they come home. I think that the troop greeters are wonderful people who are very caring and I am thankful that I can say I met the troop greeters.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Fighting against the dying of the light

Author: evening1 from United States
8 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is a small group of elderly adults in Bangor, Maine, setting an example for the rest of us. They may be old but they're not down for the count.

They may be infirm, and lacking lots of friends or relatives, but they refuse to isolate themselves and become self-absorbed and depressed.

Instead, they show up at the airport in the middle of the night to greet and thank soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq -- more than 1 million of them so far.

"Welcome back, heroes!" one of the old-timers shouts with an open hand.

It turns out the greeters have lots in common with the greeted. There's a highly decorated vet who served in Egypt during World War II. When soldiers ask him about his own service, he gets to feel a little appreciated himself. Much like the returnees only days before, this ailing gentleman observes, "I could wake up one morning dead."

As long as he's still kicking, though, he's trying to do some good, and he hopes that others will, too.

"We can still be of use in the communities and throughout the nation," he says. "There's a whole lot of things out there that need to be done by volunteers. They can do it and hold the community together and make the community worth living in."

It isn't always true that old age brings wisdom. However, these folks show the sometime truth in that ideal.

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Moving piece about much more than war

Author: Graham Campbell (Graham-38) from United States
11 July 2011

Most people who reviewed this movie seemed to like it. One guy felt it was about old people and the other thought it was pro-war. This movie is about getting old and wanting to feel like you're making a difference and not just waiting for death. There's a quote that fits this from the movie, "You'll rust a lot faster than you'll wear out." And so you follow these three people as they get up at all hours of the night to meet troop planes.

There was a husband and wife team who made the film and the guy's mother is Joan, which I guess is how they got to be known. And I'm glad they were. Documentaries are amazing because they give you access into people's lives that you would never have otherwise gotten. Closer than you are to your friends. In one scene, it feels like you're watching Bill sleep. Getting so close to people makes you feel like you want to help them and know more about them, and I wish they had more on the website with updates. Especially on the niece of the director who is a helicopter pilot. And an attractive one, at that.

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4 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

involuntary insightful

Author: Karl Ericsson ( from sweden
7 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is an extremely political film, suggesting that it is good to do what power considers to be your "duty", regardless of what that "duty" is. You could have made the same film in Nazi-Germany with old people from then giving "courage" to their soldiers. Just think what would have been if all these soldiers back then had just refused to go into war and not done their "duty" for "their" country, because they had realized that it was not "their" country and instead the country of the rich and powerful Nazis. The film is considered "apolitical" by reviewers, because it does not touch upon the subject of why these people go to war, except at the very end and then, of course, we are served the official bull that we can hear from the Bushes. Until the very end of the film, I did not know for sure, however, where it was going. I could not say for sure if it was a leftist film or a film by the scoundrels. Only in the end I understood that it was the latter. A powerful piece of propaganda - that's why I give it two stars for craftsmanship in spite that it is for an evil purpose. Until the very end I thought that they would reveal that all the young people, like the female helicopter-pilot especially, would turn up dead and that all the flag-waving would come to an uneasy and abrupt stop. I thought the makers of this film had followed many more families and picked out those that had to face a bad end in order to get the above expected effect. That's the kind of movie I would have done on this topic.

Of course, this was not done. Involuntary though, you do get an insight in American life and the fantastic stupidity that seems to reign there amongst some of their citizens at least (and all those that give this films high ratings). Over half the population in the USA are rumored to think that the 9/11 disaster was an inside job. Well, this film is about the rest that seem to believe anything you tell them, provided you are powerful enough.

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6 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Tribulations of Growing Old

Author: The-420-MuNkEy
11 January 2010

This movie, first and foremost, is about the troubles of elderly people. From reading a description, one would expect Troop Greeting to be the main theme of this movie, but it is far from it. The Filmmaker follows 3 elderly people around talking about their life. Be prepared to hear about medical problems, loneliness, money problems, inevitable death, and how 'it used to be' (you know, the general 'old-man' ramblings). Troop Greeting merely a strategy of coping with their own loneliness and feeling of worthlessness.

You want to make a hard-hitting documentary about the elderly? Go visit some cheap nursing homes and retirement homes. I'm sure there's more interesting content there than old people shaking hands in airport terminals.

If you're thinking about spending money to watch this, don't. Spend the money on gas and visit a nursing home. It's essentially the same experience (albeit, with the addition of the old-person smell), except you might actually have a positive effect on someones life, if only for a day.

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