Portraying the post-war affects on soldiers in film is nothing new. In 1946, William Wyler madeThe Best Years of Our Lives, a film about 3 soldiers who had a hard time fitting back in to the place they once called home. Al was a successful bank executive with a strong family life, but his family and work began to suffer as a result of his reliance on alcohol. Homer was a gifted high school quarterback who lost both hands in the war. His fiancé fully accepted his handicap, but as a result of Homer’s own insecurities, he pushed her away. Fred was an uneducated, young, married man who worked at a drugstore. He returned home only to find that his wife was only in love with the idea of a soldier and ultimately divorced him.
Sam Mendes, in Jarhead, explores the fears of marines who are anticipating the change in their lives as they return home from war. They worry about how life will go on without them and whether or not their spouses will remain faithful. Some of their fears turn out to be true. The film closes with a montage of each soldier back in their places at home. Their solemn and blank stares give the impression that they will never be quite the same.
Most recently, Kathryn Bigelow portrayed in The Hurt Locker, how one reckless soldier obsessed with the rush and thrill of defusing bombs finally gets to go home, but quickly realizes that he doesn’t belong there. We see the difficulty this soldier has with everyday things like picking out cereal and only confides in his infant son that the one thing he would truly love is to be back in the war. The film ends with the soldier beginning a new tour.
There are dozens of war movies out there that show us the horror of combat and the tragedy of the conditions a soldier must endure. However, as Wyler originally showed us in his Classic film, the real war is returning home.