Watching They Shall Not Grow Old was an experience unlike any I’ve had before. Knowing all these fresh-faced boys, who were initially so excited about going off to war were about to die: that was hard. Unlike most movies when the director yells ‘it’s a wrap,’ the actors go on to another movie: in this film there was no one to hear the director speak. They were all dead — even the voices we hear in the narration are all dead. Doesn’t that feel like a gut punch?
In my audience, there were men whom I’m sure were veterans of war. Are they the target audience? Maybe. [pullquote]But here’s the thing; the target audience should be everyone who’s old enough to know what the word war means.[/pullquote] This film should be on every history teacher’s syllabus. Also, there were a few young men and women in the audience who were there to admire the technical aspect of the revivification of the 100 year old footage.
[pullquote position=”right”]I will pass along this warning: if you have lost any family member to war, as I have — my brother, Danny, in Vietnam — this film will be beyond painful.[/pullquote] As I watched the camera pan over the trenches filled — yes filled — with bodies of both men and horses, it was difficult to determine if the body part was man or animal. I couldn’t help but wonder if Danny suffered the same sort of injuries. I did not sleep well last night.
Even with all the carnage, the saddest part of the film was when the narrators spoke of coming home, and the mistreatment they endured from people with the mentality of ‘just get over it’. [pullquote]PTSD was just a dot on horizon of mental health and it would take decades before it was recognized as a treatable mental health problem.[/pullquote] The WW1 vets took to alcohol and drugs, just as they do today.
The survivor’s guilt that came home with so many vets would eat away at them like a bad cancer. It’s a never ending source of anguish. I was a flight attendant flying out of New York during 9/11, so I speak with authority.
If you wonder why I can bring up so many negative aspects and still give this film an A+, allow me to explain. Any flick that can generate the emotions I felt, deserves an A+ and nothing less. This film is just another way of paying homage to the many men and women who have given their lives, so that today we citizens of America have the right of free speech…so we can bicker about a wall.
About The Peetimes: Before the film begins, we see a 3-4 minute exposition by Peter Jackson, who explains how he became involved in this project. You will start your timer AFTER this short clip, as the WB logo fades.
There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of They Shall Not Grow Old. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)
Rated (R) for disturbing war images
Genres: Documentary, History, War
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