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One notable gift Ms Johnson has is her ability to hold a quiet contemplative interlude where Kelli is thoughtful and we are too. Pretty soon we get close to Kelli's mindset and how she works, and through this we get closer to all the other characters in her life. There is a lot of hard work put into many of the scenes in which Linda Cardellini (as Kelli) has to look at herself and others in what has fast become an alien environment. A driving under influence complicates things but then do so many of the events which unfold before us.
The acting of Ms Cardellini is superb throughout playing a flawed character alongside so many others but trying to show her love of her children. Ways of changing her circumstances come and go and we see all sides of Kelli as they do. Michael Shannon is as good as he was in Shelter too.
Not everyone will enjoy this film or even rate it, which is a pity. It is not obviously a film pitched at women, or anyone in particular, but it is a story loaded with emotion, profound arguments, prisms of perspectives, and a lot of thoughtful direction.
I rate it very highly because we can see the hard work the artist has put into this work as we see it hanging in the gallery. One day perhaps it'll get the recognition it deserves. I recommend it.
Cardellini is superb as a returning Army veteran where she worked in the supply chain but apparently in a war zone. Although it's never specified you would guess it's Afghanistan or Iraq.
She's greeted at the airport by her husband(Shannon) and her two daughters. They return to their small town home in Ohio.
It's quickly apparent that Cardellini is not the same woman that she was when she left for her one year tour of duty. Seemingly quite depressed she begins to display increasingly erratic and volatile behavior.
One day, on a spur of the moment decision, she quits her long time warehouse job, which had been held for her while she served overseas. She is arrested for a DUI and her license is suspended. One day she gets her days confused and forgets to pick up her daughter, who is found by the police trying to walk home.
All of this leads to severe marital discord, and her husband files and receives an emergency custody of their two daughters but she will be allowed to have unsupervised custody on the weekends.
Cardellini starts to attend court mandated AA meetings but really doesn't open up there about her problems. As she files for a court hearing on custody she gets a redeployment notice from the Army.
She then resorts to more desperate measures which I'll leave to the viewer to see.
This is Cardellini's film and she doesn't disappoint with a riveting and nuanced performance. It can be difficult to watch at times and disturbing but I felt it was worth it.
The film also shines a light on a major problem in this country. You read all the time how returning veterans suffer severe marital stress, turn to addictions, or even commit suicide. Yet it seems not enough turn to any available programs from the V.A. or other organizations. There must be a better way of immediately reaching out to returning vets and helping them cope with the realities of their lives.
Remember "Disco & Dragons", the last episode from Freaks and Geeks? Well, what if Linda Cardellini (as Lindsay Weir), who duped her parents into thinking she was going to a summer college academic summit, never did get to Ann Arbor again and enroll at The Univ. of Michigan.
She followed that Grateful Dead tour for about a year, and finally got off the VW micro-bus somewhere in Ohio. She gets a dead-end factory job, joins the reserves, meets and marries a local plumber guy, has a couple of kids, and then has to go abroad for an extended tour of tedious guard duty. Coming back home on the other side of age thirty, she just can't seem to reconnect with her old life (husband, kids, job, friends) at all. A quick downward spiral finds her in rehab, and then she gets the news she's got to go back overseas on active duty once more. Kind of a bit much for a young, fragile mom with two kids she loves no longer in her custody. And there's your movie.
Yeah, there was a quick subplot, as she tried to get pregnant to avoid going overseas again. Once she hooked-up with an Oxycodone snorting Roger Sterling from "Mad Men" she met in rehab, and then tried again with her factory buddy Mickey Doyle from "Boardwalk Empire", but neither of these desperate attempts were 'successful'.
In the end, we're supposed to get a bit of a tied-up gut as viewers, when she hastily grabs the kids and drives away from it all for several miles, only to reluctantly return and get on her fatigues again.
This low-budget indie movie could have worked, as the acting (including Michael Shannon as her hubby) was good. There just wasn't a compelling enough story to grab you in. And unfortunately, (mostly) all post 9/11 war-related movies (and war-at-home movies) have died on the vine, commercially, if not critically, and RETURN certainly falls in the category. Maybe it would have found an audience as a TV movie.
This movie is painfully and relentlessly depressing, there's no feel good movie here, there's no optimism behind the horizon. Quite frankly, the only reason i would recommend this movie is for a parent to scare their child out of joining the military.
All the acting is quite good, in fact, it's chillingly realistic, but the slow pace, depressing theme with no reward, and them turning Linda Cardellini into a monster don't fly in my book.