Friday, July 17, 2015

Movie Review - Fort Bliss

Fort Bliss (2014)
Starring Michelle Monaghan, Pablo Schreiber, Ron Livingston, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and Oakes Fegley
Directed by Claudia Myers
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

A character study of a female US medic soldier dealing with her return home to her young son after over a year fighting in Afghanistan, Fort Bliss brings a slightly different spin to the typical post traumatic stress aspect we've seen in movies over the past several years.  Here, Maggie Swann (Michelle Monaghan) comes back to the States to Fort Bliss in Texas to find that her young son Paul (Oakes Fegley) has seemingly forgot about their relationship.  Having lived with his Maggie's ex -- his dad Richard (Ron Livingston) -- along with Richard's fiancée Alma (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Paul has a very negative reaction to Maggie's return.  Obviously upset, Maggie finds herself desperately trying to reconnect with Paul while also dealing with the fact that she feels a strong commitment to her job and country as she ponders whether to reenlist again and head back to war leaving her son behind.

While director/screenwriter Claudia Myers' film doesn't particularly reinvent the wheel when it comes to post-war films (and a rather pointless "meaningful" quickie relationship between Maggie and a repairman [Pablo Schreiber] doesn't really add anything to the overall tone/plot), Fort Bliss does uniquely detail the emotions of a woman attempting to overcome the struggles we hear about soldiers facing their return home.  While her character feels slightly stereotypical at the beginning, Michelle Monaghan does a really nice job of rounding out Maggie as the film progresses, allowing us to fully understand the reasons behind her difficult decision of determining whether family or country comes first.  There's a beautiful (though uncomfortable to witness) scene in a diner in which Maggie tells a fellow soldier that she feels like an awful mother for even contemplating heading back to Afghanistan that is difficult to watch, but ultimately fitting like a glove with Monaghan's portrayal.

Fort Bliss lacks the editing eye of a more experienced filmmaker, but in only her second feature film as a director, Myers shows a deft hand at giving us a glimpse of a much needed though very underseen type of character -- a mom who loves her family dearly, but questions whether her loyalty needs to be placed elsewhere for the better good of all.  This is an interesting film and one that I'm quite glad I watched.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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