“Thank You for Your Service” is not the kind of movie that you might think it is.
In fact, after you finish watching the movie, you could understand how some veterans might take it as a slap in the face.
What it boils down to is that you have no idea what they have suffered and how some of them still do.
They don’t expect you to know or understand but they are more sensitive to pain than they might let on. “Thank You for Your Service” sheds light on four veterans who are friends and served together in Iraq, then return home to adjust to so-called daily life.
The opening scene sets the tone, with tears trailing down from a drawn face and the many notes lined on the wall about how no one cares and that you must man up and get a life.
In Film Genres class a couple weeks ago this semester, we as a class read an article about bodily reactions to a movie we are watching. I had a keen awareness of how my stomach lurched and the moments I jumped in tune with the on-screen veteran who reacted with surprise at certain moments.
The way that the camera integrated quick sharp cuts or used the seemingly normal situations to create a disturbance added to what veterans saw as their reality.
Near the beginning of the film, one veteran returned home to discover his apartment empty, and the electricity turned off with no note of explanation. His girlfriend had decided to break up with him without telling him. With how the camera cut between scenes, we get a good idea of the anxiety he is experiencing and ultimately, he decides he will confront his girlfriend at the bank.
There he shoots himself in the head at the bank where his now ex-girlfriend works.
Another veteran, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) also struggles with the guilt in losing his buddy, James Doster (Brad Beyer) and feels responsible to the point where he believes he sees him everywhere, from a table at the food court in the mall to when he hunts with another buddy and nearly goes crazy.
Babies also play an important role in the film, as they calm the internal wars that rage inside the veteran characters. Schumann is seen playing with his baby and the tightness releases, but later he drops his newborn Jackson which he had done with another buddy in the war. As his wife attempts to soothe Jackson, Schumann leaves the house, overwhelmed with not only his memories that have scarred him but knowing he could have harmed his baby.
Furthermore, “Thank You for Your Service” touches on the reality of the frustrations veterans go through when trying to acquire their benefits at the VA. Schumann is also unwilling to accept help because he believes he doesn’t deserve it for what happened with Doster. So when the VA finally calls him and offers him a spot, Schumann lets Solo (Beulah Koale) take his place after his wife locked him out of their apartment because he got physically violent.
I have dated a Marine veteran for almost three years now and the movie really helped with explaining why he says what he does, his usual rather harsh perspective on life, and what he does what he does. It also explains why he, like Schumann, never tell anyone about their awards from the war.
I believe more movies need to be made like this and discussed more. You don’t have to like or agree with war but you need a sensitivity for those who now must deal with trauma from situations we cannot imagine that they dealt with. It was a powerful cinematic experience and I would recommend anyone who is open to at least a taste of what veterans wrestle with.