Hollywood has yet to make a movie that has the same impact on issues for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that Coming Home had for Vietnam vets, but they sure keep trying. Who remembers Stop-Loss? The Lucky One? The Lucky Ones (different movie)?
Writer/director Martin Papazian’s Least Among Saints is the latest movie to take on the subject and represents the best effort so far. You might remember Papazian’s performance as Brian Dettman in Sam Mendes’ excellent Jarhead and he plays the lead role of Marine vet Anthony Hayward, a man who’s finding it difficult to adjust to life back home.
Anyone who’s looking for a broad discussion about the lives of returning vets isn’t going to find it here: Least Among Saints focuses exclusively on Hayward’s troubles and doesn’t promote the idea that the character is any kind of stand-in for the men and women who’ve served abroad over the last ten years. Papazian’s performance is great: his character doesn’t talk all that much and lets his eyes and body language tell the story.
Every other character in the movie talks a lot. There’s some background on the plight of veterans and kids trapped in the family court system delivered by Laura San Giacomo, who plays the social worker who allows Hayward to care for an orphaned kid. There’s some sympathetic old veteran wisdom dispensed by Charles S. Dutton as the cop who doesn’t arrest Hayward because he can see his pain. There’s documentation of the struggles faced by milspouses in the Audrey Marie Anderson’s portrayal of Hayward’s frustrated ex-wife.
Hayward’s redemption/salvation/socialization comes through his friendship with the kid next door after the boy’s mom is killed by a drug dealer. In the end, how much you like the movie wil depend on how much patience you’ve got with Tristan Lake Leabu’s performance as the kid.
Papazian gives a great performance here and has made it a point to reach out to veteran support groups while making and promoting this movie. Least Among Saints is playing right now in New York and Los Angeles and will open in cities around the country over the next few weeks.