Linda Cardellini In RETURN - DEMAND ITFebruary 28, 2012
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: RETURN (Focus World).
RETURN, written and directed by Liza Johnson, opens with a shot of a decidedly unglamorous Linda Cardellini (FREAKS AND GEEKS) as Kelli, in combat fatigues, warily ascending an escalator in an airport. As her husband and daughters greet her, Kelli appears both frightened and exhilarated at the prospect of her homecoming, returning to a familiar situation that has become alien. A National Guardswoman who keeps the goodwill of her friends and family at bay by reminding those close to her that “a lot of people had it worse” than she did, Kelli finds, as many movie soldiers have before her, that
coming home can be even more devastating
than going to war.
Linda Cardellini / RETURN (Focus World)
Johnson keeps Kelli’s story intimate, a finely-wrought character study of the stress imposed on a family when war tears it apart, if only temporarily. Within days of her return Kelli angrily quit her job, begins to suspect her husband of having an affair, and finds herself in rehab to avoid jail. When her behavior puts her kids in danger, her husband has no choice but to leave with them.
John Slattery / RETURN (Focus World)
Cardellini plays Kelli as someone dealing with intense pain, but displacing it and in the process, alienating everyone around her. Cardellini’s portrayal is subtle and nuanced, delineating Kelli’s despair without spelling it out. She foregoes histrionics in favor of suppressed rage as she pushes away friends, family, and employers, finding a kindred spirit only after she’s thrust into rehab, in fellow veteran Bud. Played, in a true departure from his MAD MEN persona, by John Slattery, the shambling, easygoing Bud recognizes the turbulence that plagues Kelli and their scenes together are some of the film’s most affecting.
Linda Cardellini, Michael Shannon / RETURN (Focus World)
As Kelli’s husband, the seemingly ubiquitous Michael Shannon (TAKE SHELTER) is outstanding, a paragon of forbearance whose tolerance is tested within days of his wife’s return. Having maintained a business and raised his girls in Kelli’s absence, Shannon’s Mike is thrilled to have his partner back, but as Kelli spirals downward and mistakenly leaves one of their daughters alone in a deserted park, Mike realizes that his only choice is to separate his wife from their kids. Shannon’s dour mien and low-simmer approach make his pain palpable.
Though not as shattering as THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, nor as compellingly acted as COMING HOME, RETURN is an effective tale of the emotional toll of war. In some ways, the film recalls a more recent war story, THE HURT LOCKER, in its willingness to say that some service people are more at home on the battlefield than they are on their own turf. A small-scale story full of fine performances, RETURN is a powerful study of the battle that occurs after the battlefield.
Chris Claro is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former Director of Promotion for Sundance Channel and now works as a writer, producer, and media educator. He is a regular contributor to dvdverdict.com and contributor to the Eyes and Ears section of huffingtonpost.com
RETURN (Focus World) is now on demand.
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