Review of Memorial Day

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When 13-year-old Kyle Vogel discovers the World War II footlocker belonging to his grandfather, Bud, everyone tells Kyle to put it back. Kyle, however, does not obey and although Bud has never talked about the war, he finds himself striking a deal with his grandson: Kyle can pick any three souvenirs, and Bud will tell him the stories behind each one.
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Movie Review: "Memorial Day" --

Rating: R (some war violence)
Length: 108 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 2012
Directed by: Samuel Fischer
Genre: Action / Drama / Family
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Sometimes a movie comes along that reveals something deeply personal and touches all who see it. "Memorial Day" is such a film. The story revolves around Kyle Vogel and his obsession with collecting war memorabilia. It is soon revealed that Vogel's infatuation is driven by something deep. His grandfather Bud served in World War II and kept a secret footlocker. As a boy, Vogel discovered the locker and the trove of treasures encapsulated inside. He pressed his grandfather for information on the newly discovered objects, but the old man was reluctant to relive his painful past. Eventually, the aging soldier agreed and recounted the story behind three of the locker's possessions to his young grandson.

The movie explores Bud's past and his experiences in the war. The film takes the audience on a poignant journey filled with desperation, tough decisions, guilt, pride and regret. This independent picture is not the typical wartime film. It is filled with emotion, memories and honesty. Parallels are drawn between Bud's experiences in the past and Kyle's present service in Iraq. "Memorial Day" goes right for the heart, and the result is an inspired movie that the entire family can watch together.

Kyle lies wounded in a military hospital. When pressed by the attending nurse, Kyle opens up about his attraction to wartime artifacts. The film flashes back in time, and the audience is introduced to a young Bud who is serving his country overseas. As a young solider, he faces tough decisions that alter his life forever. In the present day, Bud has become withdrawn, sullen and cold. As he recounts his troubled past to the youngster, the audience is taken on a compelling journey that is filled with compassion and heartbreak.

Relative newcomer Jonathan Bennett plays Kyle with depth and emotional maturity. He gives a memorable performance that is sure to resonate with audience members from all walks of life. With his laid-back and natural delivery style, Bennett has the ability to draw people in and connect on a heartfelt level. He is completely believable, and his journey seems personal and true. As he collects mementos throughout the film, there is a sense that he will be sharing stories with his own grandson one day.

The respected James Cromwell transforms into Bud Vogel with relative ease and brings the right combination of strength and vulnerability to the role. Bud's story is revealed slowly, and Cromwell does an excellent job of embodying the conflicted spirit of the character. He speaks about each artifact as though it was truly his own, and his connection with Jonathan Bennett is remarkably strong and caring. His acting propels the movie and serves as the driving emotional force throughout the film.

Director Samuel Fischer has been in show business since the late 1980s. He has worked as a cameraman, electrician, lighting technician and grip. As a director, Fischer brings his years of experience and critical eye to the table and creates a stunning and dramatic piece. The movie would not work without the emotional connection between the characters, and Fischer is able to pull a great performance out of each member of the cast. The pace is just right, and the key elements are revealed effectively.

The battle scenes are filled with more than gratuitous violence. Each serves a particular purpose and is used as a vehicle to move the story along. A patriotic film could be overly dramatic or patronizing, but "Memorial Day" is intriguing, thoughtful and inspirational. It serves as a tribute to men and women who have served in the military as well as an insight into the minds of those who have returned from war.

Screenwriter Marc Conklin manages to weave together multiple time periods in a seamless and clear way. The storylines never get tangled, and the film is perfectly balanced. The characters are well rounded and fully developed, and Conklin manages to inject just the right amount of action into this drama. A dusty footlocker, a handful of trinkets and a few repressed memories come together to produce a really engaging picture.

This film will resonate with the young and old alike. Relationships are at the core of the movie, which provides a glimpse into the life of a soldier during and after the war. Simple objects hold the mysteries of the past, which are revealed in a touching and earnest way. The focus is on the emotions and the bond between generations. This is a must-see picture for audiences of all ages.