When US army reservist Kelli (Linda Cardellini) returns from active duty overseas she finds reassimilating to life at home far harder than she was prepared for. Can her husband and young family help her readjust or will her difficulties break them apart?
An evocative feature debut for writer/director Liza Johnson — Sundance Institute nurtured, with a quietly excellent, intense central performance — deals with a dislocated woman. Her Middle East war deployment over, Linda Cardellini’s Kelli returns to a dying town that welcomes her with fried chicken, gossip and her old warehouse job. Her plumber husband (Michael Shannon), who did his Mr. Mom stint with their two small children, is eager to pick up where they left off. But Kelli struggles to find her place and purpose. While there is no dramatic post-traumatic disorder or flashbacks of war, there is also no getting away from perceiving this as yet another, if quite well done, ‘soldier returns from tour of duty and can’t adjust to ordinary life in Ohio’ kind of thing, except the soldier is a woman.
Skipping the usual flashbacks-and-cold-sweats cliches, Return has an understated power, even if the story traverses pretty well-trodden ground.