By William Engel
“Surviving Home” takes us through the lives of four different veterans, each of whom fought in a different war – Richard Green, a World War II veteran, Claude Thomas, a Vietnam war veteran, Robert “Bobby” Henline, a Gulf War veteran, and Tracey Cooper Harris, an Iraq War veteran. The film alternates between the four veterans’ lives, demonstrating the struggles that each of them faced upon returning home from war.
By following four different subjects from four different generations, filmmakers Matthew and Jillian Moul compare and contrast their experiences and highlight both the diversity and the universality of what they go through. Each story is centered around a different aspect of the tumultuous life of a veteran. Robert “Bobby” Henline was left horribly deformed from an explosion, while Claude Thomas turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with his feelings of isolation and disenfranchisement after returning home.
The veterans are also shown to have diverse methods of overcoming their struggles. Henline found new life as a standup comic, taking advantage of his deformity and making facetious jokes about living life as a “zombie”. Thomas, meanwhile, became a Buddhist monk after kicking his addiction, embracing a new life defined by physical and spiritual cleanliness.
The tone of the documentary is one that encourages admiration and compassion for its subjects, rather than pity. When asked, Thomas says that he doesn’t regret his military service, claiming that it helped shape him into the man he is today. The other three veterans express similar sentiments; in spite of the physical and emotional damage they’ve endured as a result of enlisting, they’re still grateful for being given the opportunity to serve, which speaks volumes about their emotional strength.
“Surviving Home”, simply put, is a fascinating look at what it means to be a veteran, simultaneously inspiring and heart-wrenching.
1h 25min | Documentary, Biography
Directors: Jillian Moul and Matthew Moul
Writers: Jillian Moul