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The Way We Get By American service men and women are a frequent sight at the Bangor International Airport in Maine; many troops returning from overseas assignments pass through the airport as they make their way home or to their next mission. Since the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, over 800,000 U.S. soldiers have arrived at Bangor International, and nearly all of them have been met by Bill Knight, Joan Gaudet, and Jerry Mundy. Calling themselves "the Maine Troop Greeters," Knight, Gaudet, and Mundy are three senior citizens who see to it that every soldier returning to America is given a warm and encouraging welcome, a hug or a handshake, and the use of a cell phone so they can call their loved ones, no matter when their plane touches down. While the Greeters have their own troubles to deal with -- failing health, the loss of loved ones, loneliness -- their work with the soldiers gives them both a sense of purpose and a perspective that makes their own troubles easier to bear. Joan Gaudet's son Aron Gaudet is a filmmaker, and his documentary The Way We Get By chronicles the work of the Maine Troop Greeters, the story behind the three tireless volunteers, and how their project has touched the men and women they welcome nearly every day. The Way We Get By was an official selection at the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
Overall Customer Rating
5 (2 Reviews)
100% of customers recommend this product.
Posted by: mickky34 from: Washington, DC on
This review made me want to see the film--and I have since purchased numerous copies for my friends. This is a must see!
Real Americans in 'The Way We Get By'
By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer Published-Friday, Oct. 2, 2009
Their first contact with U.S. soil is the single asphalt runway at Bangor International Airport in Maine. The first citizen they see is often Bill Knight, posture stooped, pushing 90, wearing his World War II veteran cap, pumping the hand of every service member who deplanes after tours of Iraq or Afghanistan. Knight, troop greeter at this gateway airport, is one of three senior citizens who are profiled, challenged and honored by "The Way We Get By," a lyrical documentary guaranteed to jerk tears and tug hearts over and over during its tight, haikulike 86 minutes.
No one comes home in a body bag. There are no dusty dispatches from Baghdad or Helmand province. There are no protests. There is no rhetoric. It's not that kind of war documentary. "The Way We Get By" is about three people, not about military or political combat. It strikes a deep, rich vein of emotion that flows through America's elderly, and it should be required viewing for those who think they know exactly what America is about.
Bill Knight, Joan Gaudet and Jerry Mundy (average age: 78) are dream subjects for a documentarian. They have the right mix of sass and wisdom and are naturals in front of a camera. They greet military transport planes that land at the airport, sometimes arriving at 4 a.m. with bright smiles and warm hugs, and they grapple with the rubs of old age at home. Knight, a widower with cancer, staves off a creeping loneliness in a farmhouse overrun with cats and empty cans of Alpo. Gaudet has an aggressive pill regimen that combats her back pain but saps her energy. Mundy, whose closest friend is his dog, has never gotten over the long-ago death of a 10-year-old son.
Despite these ailments, they go about the business of helping others, inadvertently deploying life lessons in a Mainer's chalky accent and making sure servicemen and women (750,000 since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom) are greeted, thanked and given a chance to call home on a donated cellphone. They're such great characters, it's almost possible to forget they're real people living real lives.
"The Way We Get By" sidesteps easy sentiment and eyeballs something deeper and more primal than patriotism. More than anything else, Knight, Gaudet and Mundy are seeking a reason to live. Even in the latter decades of life, they search daily for meaning, for purpose. They only want to be good citizens. They want to be useful, in whatever way they can. They don't grouse. They don't overthink. They do. They are models of simple utility.
Such quiet devotion might seem sappy if trusted to the wrong storyteller, but filmmakers Aron Gaudet (Joan's son) and Gita Pullapilly aren't out to canonize their subjects or comment on war. Instead, they map the tricky emotional territory around mortality. "The Way We Get By" is as much art as it is documentary. It is atmospheric, with useful cutaway shots to ice floes and lilacs, with scenes cast in slanted winter light, with closeups of gnarled hands and wrinkled, tired faces. There is a cyclical movement in this perfectly titled documentary. It skims the surface at first and slowly circles deeper, finding a poetic echo in Knight's own military service, sharing in Mundy's evolving grief, watching Gaudet learn to say goodbye instead of "welcome home."
"The Way We Get By" is not so much a slice of life as the whole pie, the highs and lows of twilight living, all found and filmed in a terminal at an airport in Maine. What a country.
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.
Amazing film- a must watch for every American
Posted by: moviecriticnyc from: New York, NY on
I saw this film on Netflix and started watching it. This is a must watch film!! I was hooked immediately by this World War II veteran and his story. On the surface, the story seems to be about greeting troops at an airport. But this is far from just a "feel good" film. This film explores the complex emotions behind life and living it--and what we as a community can do to support each other.
After watching the film, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I went to the movie website, read updates on the three subjects of the film, and I started to do something I never do-- sharing reviews of this film with anyone who will listen.
This film just recently received an Emmy nomination and I'll be rooting for this film to win.
If you haven't seen it, watch it. I have been sharing my copy with my friends and family and plan on buying this as a stocking stuffer for Christmas.
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.
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