Born on the Fourth of July

I think comparing this film with Best Years of Our Lives is very appropriate. Both films focus primarily on the impacts of a soldier’s homecoming, emotionally and politically/historically.

While BYOL was a bit ahead of its time in addressing PTSD as a common and severe symptom of coming home from war, BOTFJ took it to another level and was expressed stylistically by Oliver Stone (for example, the scene where Tom Cruise/Ron Kovic was giving a speech and the sound of the baby crying led to the character reminiscing vividly and reluctantly about the war).

At the same time, Stone’s movie addresses the difficulties of coming home as a paraplegic. BYOL tackles that same issue but through a different character, but its implications are just as effective. Both characters go through humiliation, de-masculination, and fight through their respective relationship problems (Homer struggles to re-connect with his gf, as does Kovic with his high school fling and his family).

Another issue both movies do a good job of addressing is alcoholism. In these two movies (as well as many others), it seems that alcohol and drug use are prominent escapes for an ex-soldier whenever an attempt to forget about the war is needed. Fred in BYOL exposes his drinking to his family, and Kovic takes this to another level by going to Mexico and using his disability checks to finance his alcoholism. Of course, resorting to alcoholism affects the person and everything around them and exacerbates the life of the individual.

I thoroughly enjoyed both movies because they express the same issues, yet stylistically they are different because each movie is a product of its time. While this has an effect on how the director expresses these issues, in the end they are perceived virtually the same way: a soldier’s homecoming is not all parades and nurses-kissing-the-sailor in the street – the transition is difficult, for lack of a better term, they need all the support they can get.

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