Return (2012) Review

Return offers a glimpse into the life of a hero and her attempt to re-assimilate into society. She has returned to the states to a home complete with a husband and family who have lived a full year without her as she served her country abroad. At first glance, little has changed but her perspective on reality. After seeing the film, however, audiences will leave with a greater understanding of the struggles so many of our heroes endure.

Linda Cardellini is Kelli, the wife of a plumber and mother of two small children. Her recent efforts overseas have grossly affected her ability to communicate, even with trusted confidantes and supportive members of her family. She has the heightened awareness of knowing their interest and concern regarding her recent past. This is compounded by the ethical obligation to protect their sensibilities and the internal obligation among those who live and die by a code of arms.

All of this is increasingly more hazardous and overwhelming as the relationship between Kelli and her husband reaches its breaking point with all of the strain. Michael Shannon is Kelli’s husband, Mike. He, like her friends, is alienated by the sudden introversion exhibited by Kelli and the denial she attempts to pass off as acceptable. It is when she walks out on her job at the factory that the family hits rock bottom. All fingers point to Kelli who must find something stationary on which to focus or plummet her way through the downward spiral which grows closer and more inevitable every day.

Writer and director Liza Johnson drew from the experience of a friend to develop an adaptation relevant to the masses fortunate enough to be removed from actual military policy, let alone being “on the ground”. Her portrait of a fighter goes beyond sex and obligation and draws attention to circumstance. After protecting the well-being of her fellow comrades amid the ravages of war, Kelli’s transition to the once fulfilling role of partner and homemaker has somehow become pale.

Kelli’s story begins with her family’s arrival as she exits the bus at the depot. She has traveled the last leg of the long journey home through the myriad of small towns on the road to her piece of America. Wood frame houses line the street of this authentic portrait of the great Midwest. Return is a tribute to the backbone of our nation’s people.

In a way, the film celebrates blue collar traditions and the humble ethics of hardworking people honor the spirit of resurrection that propels the best in each of us to achieve. In hometowns across the land, these citizens represent the support networks of many returning veterans and their sincerity is often taken for granted. Like so many others, extreme conditions have altered Kelli’s comprehension of community.

Return is a reminder to every American that those who have risked their lives at gunpoint (and in many cases, much worse) have a major task in allowing themselves to fit into our daily lives upon leave from active duty. There is an adjustment that must be acknowledged. There is a simplicity to life that remains nearly constant, specifically when compared to the bevy of changes one must endure when going off to war. This film succeeds in making audiences recognize the depths of just how alienated a veteran can feel.