Return is a somber war-at-home pic that examines post-traumatic stress from the unraveling perspective of a military mom.
Kelli (Linda Cardellini) is a National Guard supply specialist, who returns from a deployment abroad to a Rust Belt overrun with boarded-up plants, vacant lots, and miles of white pickets, piercing the air like tiny wooden swords.
Michael Shannon turns in yet another stellar performance as the grounded husband who’s forced to cope with his wife’s neurosis; John Slattery shows up all grizzled and defiant, doing his best Ted Kaczynski; and relative newcomer Bonnie Swencionis looks much more convincing than she feels as the semi-suburban devil in a red dress.
It’s difficult to watch Return without drawing parallels to Shannon’s transcendent lead in 2011’s Take Shelter. The key difference here is that Shannon assumes the role of jilted spouse to Cardellini’s (Oscar-caliber) restless/listless/shameless war vet. Metaphorically speaking, if Take Shelter was the catastrophic Tsunami no one saw coming, Return feels more like a slow-building wave that never really breaks. The acting is superb, and the story feels real … but there’s a dark cloud hanging over the entire production that never really lifts. A for authenticity. D for depressing.
(Return opens in limited release on Friday, February 10th, with a national rollout to follow)