There is nothing worthy of celebration when it comes to Vietnam and Ashby captures the rawness with a documentarian’s eye, yet softens it slightly and instils humanity without feeling the need to preach.
There is an authenticity throughout Coming Home which hits you like a sucker punch in the opening minutes and never quite leaves. Propaganda movies, divisive documentaries and blasé bio pics rarely carry the weight, conviction or honesty which is quickly established and never relinquished. Available for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK this Hal Ashby diatribe is filtered through a burgeoning romance, disintegrating relationship and provocative cultural change which still provokes debate.
Grounded by three powerful performances this love triangle of optimism, anger and indifference to an unwanted war reverberates with relevance in light of current Presidential processes. There is nothing worthy of celebration when it comes to Vietnam and Ashby captures the rawness with a documentarian’s eye, yet softens it slightly and instils humanity without feeling the need to preach. Jane Fonda, Jon Voight and Bruce Dern supersede the artifice of celluloid by living through their characters rather than merely portraying them. Reminiscent of Milos Forman’s Cuckoo’s Nest if only for that overwhelming realism, Coming Home is a reminder that anti-war sentiment can be delivered without a sledgehammer.
Aided by an eclectic soundtrack which includes Simon and Garfunkel and The Rolling Stones, Ashby effortlessly evokes period whilst peppering his film with intimate dialogue scenes, flashes of potent rage and melancholy resignation. For those who only know Voight as the father of Angelina Jolie, Coming Home demonstrates an undeniable talent for drama and pathos. Similarly Dern see-saws between optimism and shattering reality upon his return, depicting depravity, carnage and isolation without drifting into caricature. Ravaged by realisation it is the futility which haunts the man and offers Coming Home its fitting eulogy for America’s involvement overseas.
Harrowingly understated there is no sweetening the pill or watering down that final impact as a singular act of release comes to embody what mere words only imply. Worth watching twice if only to appreciate the nuance on display, Coming Home remains roguishly relevant in a time when America is being held to account by a President who would rather have people die than admit wrong doing. Rarely has a film had more relevance, proven pertinence or reflected cultural unrest with such subtlety than here.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Hal Ashby
Written by: Waldo Salt, Robert C. Jones
Starring: Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Bruce Dern
Released: 1978 / Genre: Drama
Country: USA / IMDB
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Coming Home was released on UK Blu-ray as part of Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinema Series on July 15, 2019.