That Danny Mooney’s debut feature is called Love and Honor, not Love or Honor, is a small distinction which says a lot about the film’s shortcomings. Though set mostly in 1960s Ann Arbor, the story begins in Vietnam, where a young soldier, Dalton Joiner (Austin Stowell), narrowly escapes death along with his best friend, Mickey (Liam Hemsworth), only to then receive the added jolt of a breakup letter from his girlfriend, Jane (Aimee Teegarden). Dalton foregoes a week of R&R in Hong Kong with Mickey in order to win Jane back, unaware that college has turned her into a full-fledged hippie and anti-war protestor. Love, then, presumably stands for both Dalton’s quest and the easygoing counterculture he encounters in Ann Arbor, and honor for the commitment that the two men signed up for in the military. Two ways of living, in other words, that, when the movie begins, seem in total opposition, but eventually get muddled together until everyone’s gathered together to love one another and honorably support the troops.
Jane lives in a communal house with, among others, two fervent protestors and college newspaper editors, Candace (Teresa Palmer) and Peter (Chris Lowell). It’s not an environment that takes too kindly to the sudden appearance of two military men, not until Mickey cooks up a story about how he and Dalton have deserted the army to protest the war. Suddenly treated like a hero and sporting a peace-sign T-shirt, Dalton tries to get Jane to marry him while Mickey, in an especially cringe-inducing Che Guevara shirt, woos Candace. The deceptions and romances carry on as one might expect, all while the film makes some attempt at exploring the cultural shifts of the time period. It periodically refers to the upcoming, life-defining event of the moon landing, and offsets Dalton’s expectations of a suburban life hosting weekend barbecues alongside Jane with the fact that she now goes by the name of Juniper and hangs out with people who probably don’t believe in suburban married life anymore. But it’s all mostly window dressing for a predictable three-act script, paling in comparison to Ginger & Rosa, a film that takes the political temperature of the same time period with substantially more depth, never stooping to the hackneyed level of featuring a local cop at a student protest yelping, “Deserters? Not on my watch!”