With empathetic reserve only sullied by occasional lapses into cross-cutting and musical italicizing, The Way We Get By equates the sadness of war and aging through the story of Maine residents who spend their days and nights greeting departing and returning American soldiers at the heavily trafficked Bangor airport. Director Aron Gaudet focuses his gaze on three individuals—his 75-year-old mother Joan, 74-year-old Jerry Mundy, and 87-year-old Bill Knight—whose solitary lives are at least partially defined by heartrending loss, whether that be Jerry’s beloved dog, Bill’s long-deceased wife, or Joan’s husband and grown-up brood, and the loneliness it has engendered. As patriotic citizens with either direct or familial connections to the military, the three find themselves compelled (Joan says she’s “addicted”) to show servicemen and women going to and coming from Iraq and Afghanistan how much they’re valued. Yet their efforts are also motivated by personal desires for companionship, reciprocated affection, and a purpose for their twilight years, which they obtain from those camouflaged soldiers they warmly shake hands with and speak to, as well as from fellow altruistic greeters who—calling each other in the middle of the night with flight info, and joking around at the airport—together form a community. Without ever unduly stressing the point, Gaudet captures how the specter of sudden death haunts both these greeters and military personnel, and how live-for-the-moment platitudes serve as unsatisfactory means of combating the fear and misery that comes from thoughts of not simply dying, but doing so (or being left behind by departed others) alone. In the sight of Bill’s nightmarishly gone-to-seed farmhouse home, which is overrun by cats and littered to the hilt with garbage, or of Joan seeing her own grandson and granddaughter off on their tours of duty, Way We Get By expresses the soul-sickening grief that comes from being forced to face, on a daily basis, one’s tenuous mortality. Never losing sight of its elderly trio’s warmth, benevolence, good humor, and selflessness, Gaudet’s film reveals, through its subjects’ honest, forthright introspection, the everyday courage required to make it through old age.
- International Film Circuit
- 84 min
- Aron Gaudet
- Aron Gaudet
- Joan Gaudet, Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy
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