Father Solider Son (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): A solider and his family

Netflix documentary film “Father Soldier Son” gives us a close and intimate look into the 10-year story of one ordinary American soldier and his dear family. While it remains rather apolitical about the war which is still being continued even at present, the documentary sincerely presents a series of personal struggles observed from its human subjects, and there are several genuinely touching moments to remember.

The documentary, which was mostly shot during the 2010s, mainly chronicles how much life were changed for Sergeant First Class Brian Eisch during that period. As he tells us at one point, he was expected to be a solider by his father right from his childhood years, and he had served in the US Army for more than 15 years when he was deployed along with many other American soldiers to Afghanistan again in 2010.

When he came back to US during that year for spending two weeks with his two sons Isaac and Joey, both of them were delighted to see their father back in their world. Because their mother left them after her divorce with their father, Isaac and Joey were taken care of by Brian’s older brother instead during Brian’s military tour in Afghanistan, but they still missed their father a lot, and we get a heartfelt moment which shows Brian reuniting with his two sons at an airport. To Joey and Isaac, their father is a hero to look up to, and they are all quite eager to tell to the camera on how much they want to be just like their father someday.

However, not long after going back to Afghanistan, Brian happens to get injured seriously, and we soon see him being treated in a big military hospital for wounded soldiers. Despite the severity of his injury, he is hopeful about the upcoming recovery process, and, above all, he wants to resume serving for his country as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, things do not go well for Brian during next three years, and the documentary subsequently shows him being ready for getting an amputation surgery on his left leg, which has been the source of constant pain and stress during last three years. In front of his camera, he tells us about how he has often felt bad and moody after his injury, and his changed status feels apparent to us in more than one aspect. For instance, he seems relatively less optimistic than before, and he does not look that healthy compare to how much he looked fit and strong in 2010.

At least, Brian has been supported a lot by his caring girlfriend Maria, who has lived in his residence for a while along with one of her own three kids. Since accepting her presence in the house, Isaac and Joey have been quite accustomed to living with not only her but also their stepbrother, and we later see Joey having a playful time along with his stepbrother on the floor.

Nevertheless, Brian cannot help but feel lousy as struggling to step forward in his long and grueling recovery process. When his amputated left leg is not healed as fast as he wants, he barely suppresses his anger and frustration in front of his girlfriend and doctors. When his left leg is finally healed enough for an artificial leg, he feels a bit better, but then he soon experiences its downsides, and there is a cringe-inducing scene where he clumsily tries to load a snowplow on his truck for himself.

At his home, Brian usually spends his free time on playing those violent video games, and it goes without saying that he often misses his combat experiences a lot. Yes, he could have died at any point during that time, but he always had a sense of accomplishment as actively serving for his country, and now he feels like a useless burden to his country and the US Army, while not knowing what to do with the rest of his life.

Of course, this emotional trouble of his affects his two sons considerably. Although still respecting their father as much as before, both of them cannot help but feel the growing distance between them and their father, and Isaac comes to have doubts on whether he really wants to be a solider, while Joey also has his own painful moment in his sincere attempt to get closer to his father.

The rest of the documentary continues to follow and observe what Brian and his family go through during next five years, which turn out to be accompanied with several dramatic ups and downs. When Brian and Maria finally gets married, everything feels fine and all right for everyone, but then they are totally devastated by an unexpected incident, and then they come to have a touching moment of healing a few years later.

However, things still do not look entirely fine for Brian and his family. He tries to look optimistic in front of the camera, but Maria subsequently tells us a bit about how he still remains as troubled as before. When one of his sons eventually joins the US Army, he and Maria are certainly proud of their kid, but then he also shows some bitterness while reflecting on how the situation in Afghanistan remains as messy as when he went there for the last time.

Overall, “Father Solider Son” may not show you anything new if you are familiar with a number of movies and documentaries about American soldiers sent to Iraq and Afghanistan during last two decades, but it still works as an engaging personal chronicle, and you will come to care a lot about Brian and his family regardless of your political opinion. To be frank with you, I think I will probably disagree with Brain on many different social/political matters, but I sincerely hope that he will eventually reach to a more stable and peaceful state someday.

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