Gabrielle Savage Dockerman’s Missing In America

War movies are a dime a dozen, but how many filmmakers choose scripts that focus on veterans trying to live their lives years or even decades after, with the lingering trauma of conflict and impressions of violence following them around, now encoded into their psyche? Gabrielle Dockterman’s Missing In America is a very low budget, laid back yet deeply powerful story of how several men who once fought in the Viet Nam war deal with the aftermath in their twilight years, and how sometimes an event that terrible can have ripple effects many years later. Danny Glover is Jake, a reclusive, brittle vet who lives a simple life alone in the misty mountains of the Pacific Northwest. He has little human contact save for kindly yet poker-faced general store owner Kate (Linda Hamilton). One day he gets a visit from old army buddy Henry (David Strathairn), who is dying of lung cancer and leaves Jake with what is most important to him, his half Vietnamese daughter Lenny (Zoe Weizenbaum) in hopes that Jake can take care of her and give her a life when he’s gone. Jake is a stubborn, solitary fellow and things get to a rocky start but the two eventually do bond and the film quietly cultivates a meditative, sometimes stormy and often touching relationship between the two… until past wounds refuse to heal and tragedy strikes. It seems this region is home to several veterans other than Jake, and one in particular who never really recovered from the horrors of war is Red (Ron Perlman), a haunted, disfigured man who resents Lenny and is hostile towards her. This is a quiet, meaningful story of human beings trying their best with collective trauma and I greatly enjoyed it. The ending is horrific though and quickly escapes the trap of being simply a schmaltzy Hallmark type thing. This film, although simple and sentimental in areas, has a dark underlying theme and a difficult, tough-pill-to-swallow message to get across. I’m not going to lie and say this is Hollywood pedigree Oscar bait filmmaking, it’s got an ultra shoestring budget, most of which probably went to paying the wonderful cast, who are all excellent and don’t phone in for a second. Young Zoe Weizenbaum is great too in her first, almost only film role since. The Vancouver-area setting is lush, foggy, atmospheric and gorgeous through and through, naturally. If you like simple, truthful, no frills dramatic material showcasing big name actors doing something unpretentious, genuine and accessible, give it a go.

-Nate Hill

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.