Although this film is set in present day US, it's main character Stanley Philipps (played by John Kusack), could have stepped strait out of the 1950's. Stanley manages a hardware store, isn't great at sharing his emotions and believes in the nobility of armed service. His wife Grace (Sargent Philipps) is stationed in Iraq, and their two daughters are both dealing with her absence. Unfortunately Stanley doesn't cope well with the news of Graces death, and instead of telling his daughters, drives them across the country to visit a theme park.
It sounds like a promising story and won the Audience Award for Drama on it's premier at the 2007 Sundance Festival. Unfortunately the films ambition isn't matched by what's delivered, and the award puts me off Sundance a bit. The obvious attempt at a universal message about loss and the emotionally manipulative ending intentionally softens the blow of any hard edged questions about war, and in particular the US's involvement in Iraq. It's as if they set out to make a film for conservative war mongers in the hopes that by the end they'd be wiping away a tear and muttering, "well, it's not really nice when people die. Especially for their families".
The film seems overly concerned with not offending anyone, and therefore is a good donkey to back at next years Oscars. The only person who says anything anti-war or anti-Bush ("your monkey president"), Stanley's brother John, is effectively dismissed by being portrayed as a high school drop out who's made a complete mess of his life.