With all due respect, Ms. McCain entirely misses the mark when it comes to the dramatic torment some families do in fact endure in her piece “Why does Hollywood hate our troops?” ****Spoilers Included***
I also saw this movie, “Brothers” – presumably the same weekend as Ms. McCain – and saw an entirely different movie than she. Obviously an extremely dramatic representation of post traumatic stress disorder, the horrors of war, and the upheaval a family can experience whilst a family member is deployed … and once he or she returns … it was an entirely realistic depiction of all of these things.
I’m pretty sure Sen. John McCain was no longer being deployed, and returning home, deployed, and then returning home while Meghan was growing up, so it is unclear to me if she quite understands the freshness of the emotional cycle of letting go, and excitement at the return of a soldier – particularly from the perspective of a spouse or young child. The scenes between the father and eldest daughter were palpably gut-wrenching … I remember more than a few times having tense moments of pushing my father to punish him for being away … very much like the birthday party scene. And, I’ll tell you what. If my dad asked me to ‘stop playing with my cake’ in the way that soldier did … you can bet I would have. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t an abused child, and my dad didn’t hit … but, neither did this father. These are the scenes I think were lost on Ms. McCain … these scenes of readjusting to reality – for everyone.
The silent withdrawal of a young girl who doesn’t know why her father has to leave again, praying that he won’t go, and dreading his absence is something children of the deployed go through on a regular basis. The unfamiliarity a son or daughter may feel after his or her parent returns is all the more strange. Attachment, detachment, attachment, detachment … it’s a disconcerting cycle. There are counseling groups set up for these kids at their schools… they aren’t being counseled because it’s slightly uncomfortable. These kids are being counseled because they are fully aware that they may not ever see their parent again. As I’m sure Ms. McCain is well aware of.
However, Meghan is an adult. She may be just a little bit better equipped to face this sort of reality. Children, on the other hand … clearly not so much. Moreover – although a kiss was all that occurred in later scenes between Portman’s character and her brother-in-law – affairs are a side-effect when couples are away from each other for long periods of time – and, in this case, everyone thought the deployed soldier was dead. So, even though there was no affair, and the kiss in the film shared between the wife and the civilian brother was mutual … she WAS flirting with him too … this also is not surprising when one is going through the stages of grief, seeking mutual consolation.
While this is fiction, there are a few things that seemed to have been misinterpreted by Ms. McCain while watching the film. The soldier confessing the need to abandon his mission … he was threatened and tortured prior to recording that message. So, with the threat of death hanging over his head…he did what he was told. This is, as I’m sure she knows, part of what may go on if one is a prisoner of war. Some soldiers – I dare say – are better able to avoid cracking. Some, perhaps not so much.
So, a soldier, having just murdered a solider under his command, under extreme duress returns from war … just a little bit messed up in the head. It would be just a tad unrealistic to imagine that he would return just a little bit down or something.
I don’t know, I think if I had just cracked – and murdered someone – after being tortured, starved, mentally broken….I think I may be a little crazy too.
So, my take on “Brothers” is that it was quiet, poignant, intense, and all entirely possible. In fact, while we’re looking into PTSD, we should look into how many marriages end, how many affairs occur, and how many kids receive counseling during these tough times of war. And, we shouldn’t accuse Hollywood of hating the troops, because they are bringing to light serious issues that our men and women in uniform face on a daily basis …. they also are trying to make a buck, no more, no less.
Incidentally, this film was based on a Danish film of the same name. PTSD is universal. Remember the end, Meghan, when Natalie Portman asked Tobey Maguire to tell her what happened? Well, my mother asked my father the same question … she asked him what may actually seem to be a naive question … she asked “Did you kill someone?” Well, my dad didn’t answer the way Tobey’s character did. He said to my mother … “Don’t ever ask me that again.”
I’d wager a bet the fictional characters’ marriage lasted.