IN COUNTRY - Golden Oldies Finally On DVD
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016
EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s an excellent post-Vietnam War drama that went unnoticed upon its initial release but is getting some attention now thanks to Warner Archive releasing the film in widescreen for the first time (earlier DVDs were taken from pan-and-scan TV prints). It looks great in this new manufacture-on-demand DVD-R release and is highly recommended.
On the surface “In Country” is a rambling film, a series of anecdotal sequences that are only loosely tied together in story form. But director Norman Jewison’s deceptively simple tale of alienation and reconciliation, builds slowly and solidly until the always-lurking undercurrent of emotion builds to a powerful crescendo.
Yet, somehow, none of the story seems hollow or contrived, and the three-handkerchief ending feels completely sincere and from the heart.
The story focuses on young Samantha (Emily Lloyd), a just-out-of-high-school Kentucky teenager in the rural town of Hopewell. She’s sassy and brassy, living in her mother’s house with her uncle Emmett (Bruce Willis), a burned-out Vietnam vet.
Sam’s mother (Joan Allen) has recently remarried and moved to the big city, leaving her hometown and all its painful memories behind. It seems Sam’s father was killed in Vietnam just before Sam’s birth, and it’s taken nearly 18 years for Mom to start her life anew after caring for Sam and Emmett all that time.
Bruce Willis, Emily Lloyd, 'In Country'
But now she wants Sam to move to the city with her and go to college. Sam, however, feels the need to stay in Hopewell and care for Emmett. But in a way that’s just an excuse to stay around for her own quest, which consists of finding out more about her father.
The film culminates with Sam, Emmett and Sam’s grandmother (Peggy Rea) going to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., to look up the name of Sam’s father. The memorial, with its glistening black marble walls, filled with the names of soldiers who died in Vietnam, seems to go on forever, and this gentle, cathartic scene provides images and emotion guaranteed to stay with audiences for a long time.
Jewison (“In the Heat of the Night,” “A Soldier’s Story,” “Moonstruck”) and screenwriters Frank Pierson (“Cool Hand Luke,” an Oscar-winner for “Dog Day Afternoon”) and Cynthia Cidre have perfectly captured the confusion of a young woman fresh out of high school and her need to uncover secrets she feels have been hidden from her. And the details they provide, about small-town life, teenagers at the crossroads of beginning adulthood and the troubled Vietnam veteran ring true all the way.
And British actress Lloyd delivers a remarkable performance as Sam, abandoning her natural Cockney accent for a perfect Southern drawl (she also displays an accurate Brooklyn accent as the title character in the current “Cookie”).
Willis is also quite good, quietly underplaying Emmett as a troubled man who hasn’t come to grips with the year he spent in Nam, letting it affect his entire life.
Joan Allen as Sam’s mother is perfect in her combination of resolution and dismay; Judity Ivey, as a woman with eyes for Willis, lights up the screen in a pair of all-too-brief scenes; and Rea as Sam’s grandmother is also delightful. The rest of the cast is quite good as well.
“In Country” is rated R for profanity, and there is some mild violence and a brief scene with Sam and another troubled vet in bed together.