Monday, July 24, 2017

Movie Review: Ithaca

Title: Ithaca
Author: Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Momentum Pictures
Release Date: 2015
Genre: war, family, drama, coming of age
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG: thematic elements, a war image, and smoking (edited to add: implied drinking)
Age Group: 12+

Summary: Fourteen year old Homer is the man of the family now. His father is dead, and his brother Marcus is away in the war. No way his little four year old brother can take care of things, and his sister is sweet but not really ready to take on adult responsibilities yet. And Mom? Well Mom is a wonderful woman, but she misses her husband.
So Homer goes up the road to get a job as a telegraph messenger. He meets a young man who was "the best messenger there ever was", now just trying to keep his business alive. Then there's the old man who transcribes the telegraphs and regularly gets drunk at night because he struggles with reality.
The first day of work finds Homer stumbling into the house saying, "It's fine, Mom. Everything is fine." And then confessing the world is not what he thought. He spends his day in school, his afternoons and nights at the office delivering telegraphs that sometimes he'd rather no one had to receive.
This is the story of Homer's becoming a man during World War II.

Word of Warning
  • Ulysses (the little brother) is quite the little adventurer, running off and all over the town. Nothing serious ever happens to him, but it's a little concerning.
  • We don't know how Homer's father died, but Homer has a nightmare about him, and his mother sometimes sees his father in the house when he is clearly not there.
  • Marcus' friend confesses that he doesn't have a family or any real reason to care about anything. It's sad to think he grew up with no one.
  • As mentioned in the PG rating, there is one war image. It is mostly smoke, some shouting, lots of running, and one or two screams.
  • The old man at the telegraph office gets drunk every night--and he'll admit this without hesitation.
  • A group of three soldiers about to ship out meet Homer's sister and friend and take them to the movies. They're clearly smitten, but all that happens is a kiss on the cheek and one of the soldiers staring, spellbound, at one of the girls in a rather sweet way.
  • Homer delivers letter after letter that begin something like "The US Secretary of War regrets to inform you."
  • Two deaths, both very heartbreaking, neither graphic.
  • Homer says he has changed, that he doesn't really care anymore. He doesn't care whether the new girl likes him, or what Ulysses does next, or anything else. It's not that he's lost the will to live, he just doesn't care about the things he used to. It's heartbreaking to watch this change happen to him as he is forced to grow up far too quickly.

My Thoughts
Is there a plot? No. Nothing happens, there is no bad guy, and there is no definitive end. This is simply the story of a fourteen year old boy during the war. He receives letters from home, he brings home his paycheck to his mother, he chats with his little brother early in the morning, and he delivers letters that break hearts.
Despite the lack of plot, the movie itself is beautiful. It makes use of simple and realistic dialogue, silence, and careful lighting to set a mood and tell a tale that perhaps we do not want to hear, but should.

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