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Return: movie review

Linda Cardellini's nuanced take on a mother searching for her place is finely observed.

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Linda Cardellini plays a soldier struggling to fit in after coming home in ‘Return,’ writer/ director Liza Johnson’s debut feature.

Fork Films

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Kelli (Linda Cardellini) returns to her small Rust Belt hometown after a tour of duty in one of the United States' recent wars. She's glad to be back with husband Mike (Michael Shannon) and two daughters, but, as her attempts to adjust fail, even those relationships begin to fray. Her old friends want to hear war stories, but Kelli isn't really interested in the subject; her memories are more of tedium than action or heroism.

Everyone is walking on eggshells, and with good reason. Despite her initial sense that she can just go back to how things were, she finds her friends' everyday chatter unengaging, then trivial and even irritating. The warehouse job she's held for a decade now strikes her as meaningless; she simply walks away from it. And she also is put off by everyone asking her if she cheated on Mike while overseas.

All foreign wars have their own tales about the tribulations of returning servicemen. Stories about re-turnees trying to reintegrate into what was once their normal world probably predate Homer. In the last century, World War I gave us Hemingway's "Soldier's Home," and World War II "The Best Years of Our Lives," to name two masterpieces. Such stories are all the same, and they are all different.

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