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the welcoming committee...


William Knight, Joan Gaudet, Gerald Mundy

Gerry: I love doing it.  It’s a way of telling these young folks…thank you for what you’re doing.  It’s not something I have to do…it’s something I want to do.  If I can make some of them feel a little bit more comfortable on their way out…and show our appreciation on the way back…if you can make a soldier smile before he goes over…that’s all that’s needed.

A documentary featuring three elderly people who lead a group at the Bangor, Maine airport that welcomes soldiers home from Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever they may be deployed.

This is a beautiful, yet sad movie.  While it’s about the troops arriving and departing, and the good feelings they get from having these people there to see them off or to welcome them back, it’s also about the lives of three of these devoted people:  Bill, Joan, and Gerry.  They’re all advancing in age, in their 70s and 80s, and they all have to cope with pains, medical problems, financial issues, regrets, and fears.  All three live alone now, but find meaning and purpose in their mission to be there for those soldiers, no matter what time of day or night their flights arrive at.

Bill is a veteran who, since his wife died, has let the garbage pile up in his house so much that he doesn’t seem to even know how many random cats he has living there…or that he owns at least 25 vacuum cleaners.  He’s also heavily in debt and is suffering from cancer.  But all of that is secondary to his mission to be there for the soldiers every day.

Joan also lost her husband years ago, but does have family near by she can see often.  Two of her grandchildren are in the service now, which makes her all the more aware of how important it is for the soldiers to have people there to greet them and see them off.

Gerry is the biggest personality in the movie.  He lives with his best friend who also happens to be his dog (warning: don’t get too attached to that dog).  Gerry is also a veteran, and spends hours and hours at the airport, despite his own heart problems.

That’s just scratching the surface of who these people are.  Watching them try to come to terms with their own mortality is pretty powerful stuff.  But I think that’s balanced, for them and for the viewers, by the joy they get from seeing the soldiers come home, call their families, or even meet their families at the airport.

Sure, some of that stuff gets a little repetitive after a while, and the movie might seem a tad overlong, but that’s okay.  It still works.  And it’s still sad.  And it’s still touching.  And it’s still joyous.

People can be pretty great sometimes.

10 – .8 for being a little repetitive – .8 for maybe being a bit emotionally manipulative at times with some stuff they included = 8.4