Father Soldier Son

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Father Soldier Son Movie Poster Image
Hard-hitting docu about U.S. soldier and his family.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 99 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Chronicles extraordinary efforts needed to survive and heal after tragedy. Promotes open communication, compassion, perseverance, courage, and unconditional love. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The central figure is a flawed, but he's a brave, decent and loving man. His children, faced with enormous challenges, are open-hearted, honest, and vocal about their struggles. Female parent is consistently loving, reliable, wise, and an anchor for the other members of her family. Presents a compelling, sensitive look at the mindset and commitment of folks serving their country in the military. No ethnic diversity.

Violence

A few, brief sequences show armed battle in Afghanistan. The aftermath of Eisch's wartime service is distressing, brutal, and relentless.

Sex

Some kissing.

Language

Occasional profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "crap," "hell," "pissed-off."

Consumerism

Incidental product images includes Miller beer, Bud Lite, and some clothing has identifiable logos.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An occasional beer in casual settings.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Father Soldier Son is a documentary about Brian Eisch, an American soldier injured in Afghanistan in 2010. This New York Times-produced film began as a news story by journalists Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis about one U.S. Army battalion's return to Afghanistan. The affecting account then led to an intimate portrait of one of those men -- his service, his return, and the family's joys and adversities (and there are many) over a decade. Viewers can expect a few, short wartime battle sequences (no on-camera injuries or deaths). Occasional profanity is heard, including instances of "f--k," "s--t," "crap," "pissed-off." Some folks may find the explicit sequences showing Brian's injury, treatment, and recovery difficult to watch, but they underscore the critical changes the man endures. The film's messages, about tragedy, survival, healing, and the unconditional love of family and country, are apolitical (it's "the eye of the beholder" that matters here). This hard-hitting, emotional, and often disturbing movie isn't for kids. 

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What's the story?

In FATHER SOLDIER SON, newspaper journalists and filmmakers Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis introduce Brian Eisch, a single parent stationed in Afghanistan. It's 2010. Brian -- athletic, enthusiastic, and independent -- is home in Wisconsin for a 2-week furlough. The loving dad spends quality time with his two sons, Isaac (12) and Joey (7). Returning to his unit, Brian is severely injured and comes home for good. With Isaac and Joey by his side, Brian begins a long, painful recovery.

Only a few years later, a dire prognosis of what might happen does happen -- his leg must be amputated. In the interim years, despite his difficulties, Brian has met Maria, a loving single mom of 3 kids, only one of whom joins her to live with Brian and the boys. As the newly-formed family struggles to adjust and move forward, relationships are created and those relationships change. Then, in 2015, in the midst of their happiest times, the unthinkable happens, and the Eisch family must endure and survive another shattering tragedy.  

Is it any good?

Brian Eisch's heart-wrenching story is one of those momentous events for which documentary filmmakers may wait a lifetime. Beautifully photographed, sensitively put together, and astonishingly frank, filmmakers Einhorn and Davis appear to have elicited unconditional trust from all of the movie's participants. Father Soldier Son is remarkable, occasionally joyful, more often tragic, and very personal. It's a film filled with insights about father-son relationships, the fragility of families, as well as the nature of military service and its impact on multiple generations of Americans who would give their lives for their country. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the intentions of documentary films: to inform, entertain, persuade, or inspire. Which category(ies) best describe Father Soldier Son?  Why? What was your personal take-away from the movie? 

  • Though he made mistakes along the way, what valuable character strengths (i.e., perseverance, courage) does Brian Eisch rely upon to survive? Pick one of those traits and show why it was important. 

  • The filmmakers followed the Eisches for almost 10 years to tell their story. Think about the challenges of editing such a vast amount of footage. Did you feel that the movie was a complete whole, even though some years and events were not shown? Why or why not?  

  • Considering how smart and insightful Isaac was as a boy of 12, did you agree with his later decisions? What events were shown to influence those decisions? Can you point to events in your life that have altered your own path? 

Movie details

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For kids who love documentaries

Themes & Topics

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