Shortly before he lost his reputation and his marriage while spending $200 million of someone else's money on an aquatic epic called Waterworld, Kevin Costner took a supporting role in a quiet, character driven family drama that dovetailed the Vietnam experience with the pain of childhood experience, and managed to deliver one of his finest performances.
Stu Simmons (Wood) spends the summer of 1970 building a tree house, in part to escape the poverty of his white trash Mississippi surroundings, but also to hide from the truth about the father he idolises. His father Stephen (Costner) has returned from Vietnam a different man, bearing scars both physical and emotional, unsure of his place in a changing country and unable to deal with his sense of failure. As Stephen slowly loses his battle, Stu and sister Lidia stage their own fight, for the tree house they've built, from the local bullies, the Lipnicks.
Demonstrating the same flair for rural atmosphere he showed in Fried Green Tomatoes, Avnet has created a superior movie that matches intelligent metaphor with outstanding performances. As much as it pervades the Simmons' lives, the Vietnam war has clearly been fought; the fight that continues is the one to get beyond that. If fathers can't make that leap, then it's up to sons to do so. As good as Costner is, poignantly exploiting his American/everyman persona, he graciously takes a back seat to Wood, who in turn, makes the most of it, delivering a thoughtful and heartfelt performance. The War failed to find much of an audience in the US, it was a mistake that hopefully won't be repeated here.