MRR Review: "Love and Honor"

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Based on a true story, this romantic drama film follows a young soldier (Austin Stowell) in Vietnam who gets dumped by his girlfriend, only to go AWOL with his best friend (Liam Hemsworth) as the two secretly venture back to the States in an attempt to win her back. Once there, they encounter not only his ex but her beautiful anti-war activist friend (played by Teresa Palmer) as well.
2.5

MRR Review: "Love and Honor"

-- Rating: PG-13 (sexuality, drug content, language, brief language)
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: March 23, 2013
Directed by: Danny Mooney
Genre: Drama/Romance/War

"Love and Honor" is a romantic drama set during the Vietnam War that shows a group of young adults growing up and changing during that very tumultuous time in United States history. Dalton Joiner (Austin Stowell) is a brave soldier who has been fighting in the jungles of Vietnam while pining for his girlfriend back home, Jane (Aimee Teegarden). One day he receives a breakup letter from Jane, which sets the plot in motion. Dalton is so heartbroken that he takes the week of leave he has been granted to fly back to the U.S. in the hopes of convincing Jane to rekindle their romance.

He is joined by fellow soldier Mickey (Liam Hemsworth), who is along for the ride for moral support and because he too needs a break from the mental and physical horrors of war. When they reach Michigan, they find out Jane has changed her name to Juniper and moved into a house full of antiwar radicals, including journalists Candace (Teresa Palmer) and Peter (Chris Lowell). The peace-loving hippies in the house are not exactly hospitable to a pair of soldiers, so fast-thinking Mickey implies they are deserters to appease them and give Dalton a chance to win back Jane.

During the short week they have, Mickey, who is generally a womanizer, begins to fall in love with Candace. Of course, the only reason Candace even gave him the time of the day to begin with is because she thought he had abandoned the military. She falls in love with him too, but the relationship is put in peril as Mickey and Dalton's return date nears. Mickey begins to wonder if he should actually become a deserter to stay with Candace. Meanwhile, Dalton and Jane express their continued love for each other but wonder if they really want the same things out of life. Both couples must face several moral dilemmas and make huge decisions that will impact the rest of their lives in a very short period of time, because the boys must return to Vietnam or be brought up on charges of desertion.

Writers Jim Burnstein and Garrett K. Schiff do a fantastic job writing a script that puts all of the main characters in a pressure cooker of sorts. By giving the soldiers only a week in Michigan, they create a situation many would find almost impossible to get out of without suffering possibly severe consequences and at least some heartbreak. The film could have been set in the present, with Dalton and Mickey returning from the war in Iraq, but the choice to set the film during the Vietnam era is inspired. It allows director Danny Mooney to use the music of the 1960s to enhance the story and to explore the growth of the characters against the backdrop of pivotal events that occurred during this era, including the moon landing and the assassination of the Kennedys. In fact, the film is filled with familiar rock and pop hits that hint at the changes taking place in the country during that time.

The entire cast turns in good performances, but Palmer's turn as Candace is a real standout. The character was raised by hippies who were into peace and love before it became so popular in the 1960s, and Palmer does an excellent job showcasing Candace's idealistic nature while also displaying the vulnerability that allows her to begin opening up to Mickey and falling in love with him.

Mooney doesn't sugarcoat the atrocities that took place in Vietnam or the pain and confusion the war caused at home. He shows protests, riots, and other events that were going on at this time to remind the audience of the social upheaval during this period. The war was extremely divisive, and the tension between the two soldiers and the antiwar residents of the house is the perfect metaphor for what was happening on a much larger scale across the nation. This setting makes the characters' decisions more gut wrenching than they would normally be, which helps give the film a great dramatic flow that may leave viewers with teary eyes and provoke them to consider what they would do in such a situation, even if they did not live through that era. It is this provocation of thought that sets "Love and Honor" apart from other contemporary films about love, war, peace, and the internal struggle that comes as a result.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars