Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1978
Directed by
Hal Ashby
127 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Coming Home (1978)

Released the same year as Michael Cimino's much flashier The Deer Hunter Hal Ashby’s under-rated Vietnam film scripted by Waldo Salt with Robert C. Jones and shot by Haskell Wexler is a fine example of 1970s American independent film-making as it deals with the lot of handicapped soldiers largely abandoned by a government struggling to promote a disastrous war. .

In one of her most memorable performances Jane Fonda plays Sally Hyde whose Marine husband (Bruce Dern) in the spring of 1968 has just been posted to Vietnam. A loyal wife conventional in the manner of the era she volunteers at the veteran’s hospital where she meets a former high school acquaintance, Luke (Jon Voight), now paralyzed from the waist down after being wounded in Vietnam. Once a sports jock he is now a bitter, angry man railing against what has happened to him. The film is, unsurprisingly, the story of their relationship as they get to know each other and gradually fall in love.  

This could have been cheesy stuff but it is handled with maturity and a palpable sense of commitment (Fonda produced the film from a screenplay that she commissioned).  Whilst Luke’s  transformation is the most obvious one, in many ways the film is at its best in portraying Sally’s awakening to herself, in part due to her influence on Luke who responds to her love and dedication, the same qualities which she applies to her husband.  Both Voight (who got the role after it had been turned down by Nicholson, Pacino and Stallone) and Fonda won Oscars for their performances, but Bruce Dern in a smaller role is also very good, particularly when the film deals with his return home deeply traumatized by his experience.

Ashby makes sure that the melodrama doesn’t get away from the reality to which the film refers, yet it also features one of the most candid and moving love scenes in American film.  Although the film is a little ungainly in resolving its three-way problematic with perhaps a too-convenient ending, by and large Coming Home is a credibly moving experience.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst