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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Thank You for Your Service is a serious, mature drama starring Miles Teller about soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Expect to see both graphic wartime violence (including gory injuries) and frightening domestic rage. A character is shot. There's strong language throughout ("f--k," "s--t," and more), largely in the context of soldiers blowing off steam but also to express frustration and in the heat of explosive anger. There's some crude sex talk, as well as a non-graphic sex scene that goes terribly wrong because of a character's mental state. Characters drink throughout, and there's some smoking and drug use (both prescription and illegal). Characters also have disturbing hallucinations. Despite the movie's themes of courage and empathy, it's all about PTSD, and the emotional agony that pushes people to the brink of suicide or other destructive behavior is prevalent throughout, making it too intense for most young viewers.
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What's the story?
In THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, heroic young Sergeant Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) and some of his men (Joe Cole, big-screen newcomer Beulah Koale) return home to Kansas from Iraq. On this particular tour, things went pretty badly, and they all struggle in the transition back to civilian life. Despite supportive spouses (Haley Bennett, Keisha Castle-Hughes) and their own strength and determination, the soldiers find their emotional states deteriorating. Facing the realities of the overwhelmed Veterans Administration system, battling buried traumas, and sometimes self-medicating, can these heroes get help in time?
Is it any good?
This is one of the more thoughtful, well-realized PTSD dramas you're going to see. It marks the directorial debut of writer Jason Hall, who wrote the excellent American Sniper -- which was also an effective PTSD drama that was miscast by some as a glorification of war (its director, Clint Eastwood, called it an anti-war film). Thank You for Your Service does include some combat scenes, but there's no "cool" factor in them. They're there to explain what "broke" these strong men, some of them decorated heroes. Thank You's concerns are squarely with returning veterans as they struggle to adjust, to accept they need help, and to get help before it's too late.
Hall's cinematic technique is admirably understated. The score, which is a non-orchestral one, is used subtly. The camera doesn't move unnecessarily. He skips unnecessary edits in favor of letting viewers see people react to each other and letting moments land. With very few exceptions, his script avoids mouthfuls of "message" dialogue while conveying important information, and he effectively captures male bonding. Hall is helped enormously by a very strong cast. Teller, who deserved an Oscar nomination for Whiplash, is totally believable as a rock-solid, selfless sergeant who has to accept that it's his turn to be saved. We buy him as a leader of men who's calm and collected on the outside while things are breaking inside. It's a fascinating contrast with his other recent film, Only the Brave: In that movie, though characters are less well-developed, Teller's crack addict-turned-firefighter reads as a totally different guy from his heroic soldier here. Their internal clocks tick differently. Big-screen newcomer Koale's work as a physically powerful soldier facing forced retirement from the service is simple and sympathetic. And Bennett, as Schumann's wife, conveys love and frustration. Twice, her reactions to shocking news (the depth of Schumann's emotional struggle and the height of the mountain to climb to get VA services) are affecting. Thank You for Your Service is likely too serious and realistic to strike box-office gold, but it's beautifully executed and feels truthful.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how soldiers are depicted in movies and TV. When the military are shown performing heroically in battle, do we usually see them coming home and having a tough time? Where do the stories usually begin and end?
Do the soldiers in Thank You for Your Service seem "weak" because of all the problems they have adjusting when they come home? Should they be ashamed of needing help? Why do you think the transition back to civilian life can be so difficult?
One of the counselors in the film says "There is no cure for trauma." What do you think is the best-case scenario for the affected characters in the movie (and men and women in real life)?
- In theaters: October 27, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 23, 2018
- Cast: Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Keisha Castle-Hughes
- Director: Jason Hall
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Courage, Empathy
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violent content, language throughout, some sexuality, drug material and brief nudity
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