Vietnam veteran William Broyles, Jr. has written: “War marks the men and women who are caught up in it for life. It visits them in the hour before sleeping: it comes to them bringing grief, pride, shame . . . It never goes away.” The marked men in Jacknife are Megs (Robert De Niro), an auto mechanic, and Dave (Ed Harris), a truck driver. They served in Vietnam 15 years ago. Although they haven’t been in touch with each other since, they are still haunted by the memory of the death of their buddy Bobby in a Viet Cong ambush.
Megs pays Dave a visit and finds him uncommunicative, withdrawn into himself. He turns to Dave’s sister Martha (Kathy Baker), a shy biology teacher at a local high school. Together they grope toward a relationship and try to bring Dave back to the land of the living. The encounter between these hurting and fragile individuals is salutary for them all a last chance to reach out to someone who cares.
Stephen Metcalfe’s screenplay for Jacknife grimly conveys the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which lies at the heart of the difficulties so many Vietnam veterans have had readjusting to life at home. De Niro, Harris, and Baker deliver strong performances which explode with emotional fireworks. David Jones (Betrayal) directs Jacknife in a very focused way, putting the emphasis on the trio’s unspoken anguish, isolation, and yearning for love. Don’t miss this spooky and very special film.