MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Way We Get By’

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One of the key ports of entry and exit for America’s fighting men and women is Bangor International Airport in Maine. Since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, more than 800,000 troops have flown in and out of that airport on more than 4,000 flights, and the majority of these troops have been met by a group of dedicated citizens whose only goal is to provide aid and comfort to them.

“The Way We Get By” is the story of some of these greeters. The documentary is both a moving testament to the elderly folks who meet the troops and an interesting look at the troops themselves as they embark on — and return from — their hazardous duty.

Unlike so many of the documentaries surrounding the military during the war on terror, “The Way We Get By” manages to get beneath the callow political questions and truly examine the lives of its subjects.

The most heart-wrenching of these subjects is the veteran Bill, whose life would cease to have meaning without this self-imposed duty. His wife has died; his home is decrepit, filled with litter and cats; he breaks down in tears at one point and questions the point of going on in life without partaking in the troop greeting.

Then there’s Joan, director Aron Gaudet’s mother, whose daughter (and Mr. Gaudet’s sister) is deploying to Iraq to serve as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. One gets the sense, though it’s unstated, that Joan’s way of combating worry about her daughter is by greeting troops who have gone through the wringer and come back intact.

The great pleasure of Mr. Gaudet’s film is his reluctance to pedantically hammer points home. His camera also captures tender moments of the troops returning home and speaking to their mothers, wives, girlfriends and other loved ones upon touching down.

In addition to a hearty handshake or a tender hug, the greeters provide cell phones that the troops employ to re-connect with friends and family upon arrival. The softening of these stony warriors as they talk to their families is both remarkable and touching, and organically capturing these moments is a great testament to Mr. Gaudet’s skill.

“The Way We Get By” is a stirring film, though perhaps a little thin and mildly repetitious. It’s no wonder this picture took home the SXSW Film Festival Special Jury Award earlier this year.

★★★

TITLE: “The Way We Get By”

RATING: No rating

CREDITS: Directed and written by Aron Gaudet

RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

WEB SITE: www.thewaywegetbymovie.com/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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