Coming Home is one of the most shattering Vietnam films ever crafted, concentrating not on battlefield heroics or action, but on the emotional and psychological turmoil that veterans would face upon their return home. Starring Jon Voight, Jane Fonda, and Bruce Dern in three of their greatest performances, this is a searing drama, something that’s impossible to forget once it’s been seen, further cementing director Hal Ashby’s confidence as a storyteller during that glory decade for him as a filmmaker. He was a storyteller who was interested in human behavior and the consequences of our actions, and each of his films, no matter how compromised, demonstrated this humanistic quality. This is a heartbreaking film, showing three extremely vulnerable characters reaching their tipping points as humans, and because the screenplay by Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones was so honest and sensitive, the actors were able to really invest themselves in their roles, thus painting forceful portraits of lives constantly in flux.
Voight plays a paralyzed veteran who is helped by a volunteer therapist (Fonda), and Dern is Fonda’s battle-scarred husband who returns home with too many inner demons and no way of receiving the help that he needs. The soundtrack, as per usual for Ashby, is an incredible and evocative mix of now-greatest hits that date the film, not in a bad way, but in an organic fashion, thrusting the audience into the politically and socially charged environment of the story, while Ashby never lost sight of the intimate story details and the awkwardly beautiful relationship that Voight and Fonda embark upon. The final act of Coming Home is startling and scary and almost overwhelming in its intensity. Shot for $3 million and grossing over $30 million in the United States, the film struck a chord with audiences, and would go on to snag Oscars for Best Actor (Voight), Best Actress (Fonda), and Best Original Screenplay (Salt, Jones, and original story creator Nancy Dowd). Voight also won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival.