I knew nothing about Thank You For Your Service walking into the theater. I saw the poster which just had Miles Teller in BDUs so I figured it would be a kickass war film. I always love seeing my military films in theaters so I didn’t bother to watch the trailer. I just sat down in the theater to watch the film.

While the film is about the military it is more about what happens when soldiers return home. This flick is a true life story that follows two soldiers and their troubles with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Beyond that it really shows how great our government can be with its veterans programs. I totally mean this sarcastically. Our veterans programs are for shit. I served through many years but never had to put my boots down in the sand in Iraq or Afghanistan. But whether it is is Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Germany you may not be able to deal with the trauma when you come back from war. And our government? They aren’t always there for you when you truly need them. This movie shows how archaic the system is and the improvements that we still really need. Just in time for Veterans Day coming up at the end of the week.

The film follows initially three men who return home from a tour of duty in Iraq. All three of the soldiers served together and all three return to the same place. I guess this would make sense if the soldiers are National Guard but the film never tells you if they are. If they are returning to base you would think at least some of the family would be living on base or near base.  So I dunno. They do a very crappy job explaining. They just return home and they all live near each other. So it is what it is.

Staff Sergeant Schumann (Miles Teller) returns along with his squadmates Specialist Tausolo “Solo” Aieti (Beulah Koale) and Private First Class Billy Waller (Joe Cole). Schumann moves back in with his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett) and his two young children. Schumann doesn’t live in his own house. The film doesn’t really tell you why but his family lives elsewhere as they rent out their home to someone else. Obviously there is some sort of financial difficulty. Damn shame. Being on tour in Iraq as an E6 is some pretty decent pay.  Schumann exits the Army and never wants to go back to the sandbox.

Solo rejoins his wife Alea (Whale Rider/Game of Thrones’ Keisha Castle-Hughes) who wants to have a baby. Solo doesn’t want to be home. He wants to go back and fight some more. But Solo is dealing with some major brain issues and is discharged from the military. He also has problems remembering things which affects the very young soldier.

Waller arrives back home to find that his girlfriend up and left with his baby. Took all of his money. Took all the furniture. Took everything. Unfortunately this shit happens all the time to soldiers which is a damn shame. Waller tries his best to cope with what is going on but doesn’t cope as well as he needs to. He ends his life in a very vicious way which really impacts Solo and Schumann.

Both men realize that they really aren’t okay and that their lives are pretty fucked thanks to their PTSD. They head to the VA to seek help but find themselves in a massive pool of former soldiers all looking for the same thing. Help is available………if you can wait for the help. Both Solo and Schumann find themselves going pretty deeper and deeper into holes they don’t know if they can crawl out of.

Schumann really can’t talk about what went on and affects his relationship with Saskia. Saskia’s friend is Amanda (Amy Schumer) whose husband served with Schumann but died in theater. Amanda wants answers about her husband’s death that Schumann doesn’t want to give her. Even when Amanda tries to help the Schumann family he freaks and basically admits to Saskia that her husband Sergeant First Class Doster (played in flashbacks by Brad Beyer) is inadvertently dead because of him.

So it goes. Schumann swings back and forth on trying to be there for his wife, his family, trying to get a job, and just trying to keep himself together. He’s the kind of guy who wants to be strong but finds it hard to keep a shotgun out of his mouth. Solo is the worse off of the duo and he starts looking for drugs to get his escape. He hooks up with a local dealer Dante (Omar Dorsey) who gets him the drugs in exchange for being a mule. But when Solo fucks that up he finds himself in even more trouble.

In terms of the screenplay there isn’t much of a story here. This is a true story so I’m sure they could have Hollywooded this bad boy up. It doesn’t feel like they shoved a bunch of Hollywood in here so its good. I’m not sure how accurate the film is to the actual non-fiction book, but the film’s main purpose to me is to show the audience how fucked up soldiers can be upon returning home and how little help there is for them from the country that they served.

The film is pretty deep. It is also pretty damn depressing. It really doesn’t pull any punches and really doesn’t try to be preachy about the message.  It’s not a three act structure where Schumann comes home and tries to adjust in the first act, spirals out of control in the second act, and overcomes his PTSD by the end of the third act. Not that kind of movie, bro. Pretty damn depressing. DAMN GOOD. But pretty damn depressing.

This is the second Miles Teller movie I’ve seen in the past two weeks in theaters. I thought he was really good in the firefighter flick Only The Brave and I think his performance here was really good as well. Teller is a very capable actor and can be good in nearly everything that he is in. I will even count that crappy Divergent film. I will NOT count that crappy Fantastic Four movie. But that certainly wasn’t Teller’s fault. Teller does a good job but he is out acted by newcomer Kaole who really comes off like a fucked up soldier falling deep into a pit. Kaole was outstanding and I really liked his performance.

The movie was quite near the end when I’m looking at this actress going, “I know her. Who the hell is that?” until I went “Holy crap its Amy Schumer!” Schumer looked pretty horrible with no makeup and very dark hair. She’s a grieving widow and she did a great job. No comedy here. Just actual acting. Almost makes up for that craptastic Trainwreck movie.

This is not the feel good movie of the season and while its subject matter is well broached there is no satisfying conclusion. It’s like life. Life is messed up and so are these guys. If the film is good at anything it shows that you can probably get through anything as long as you are able to surround yourself with good people who will always be there for you.  Especially through the bad. That’s one hell of a moral. Too bad to tell that moral you have to go through hell to learn it.


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