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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

The War
Directed by Jon Avnet
Universal 11/94 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG-13 - violence, language

Parents are often hard-pressed in the midst of dealing with life's unrelenting problems to find the right time and the right words to pass on to their children the values they cherish. And yet it is truly the heart's desire of every mother and father to nourish their offspring with the wisdom they have gleaned from past experience and the rigors of the present moment.

Here is one of the richest, most realistic and revealing films ever made about the moral challenges of parenting. The lyrical and spiritually resonant screenplay by Kathy McWorter presents the engaging portrait of a father who, through bad times as well as good ones, shares with his son and daughter the ideals he believes give life meaning and purpose. In addition, his compassionate deeds create a legacy that goes beyond wealth or words.

The setting for this mesmerizing film is a small Mississippi town in the 1970s. Stephen (Kevin Costner) is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, severely curtailing his wage-earning efforts. He and his wife Lois (Mare Winningham), who holds two jobs, have lost their family home to termites, and they now live in a welfare shack.

Twelve-year-old Stu (Elijah Wood) is very close to his father. He listens intently when Stephen talks about the burdens he still bears for his actions in Vietnam. This young man has his own battles and demons to face in an ongoing feud with a family of roughnecks and bullies. While his father hopes to purchase a new home at an auction, Stu and his sister Lidia (Lexi Randall) build an elaborate treehouse in an ancient oak tree.

Lidia is a smart girl whose imagination is fully developed. She finds her voice in school when a bigoted teacher slights the blacks in the classroom. And in the end, she processes her experiences and her father's wisdom in an essay that celebrates love, courage, and caring.

As producer and director of The War, Jon Avnet has made a movie which touches the heart in the same way his previous film Fried Green Tomatoes did. The performances are earnest and touching. The values that Stephen professes and demonstrates are worth thinking and talking about. Such as standing up for your beliefs and trying to do the right thing. Such as thinking positively and keeping hope alive. Such as befriending your dreams and being an angel for others whenever you can.

This is a wonderful family film that holds up over time. Let its soulful messages light up your conversations at home — especially those about what is good and right and true.

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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