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SXSW Review: The Way We Get By

March 19, 2009


Sometimes a story reminds us that its the little things in life that make us who we are. For three retirees, a smile and a handshake, sometimes the offer of a cell phone to call loved ones, is really all they need to get by.

In the heartwarming documentary, The Way We Get By, Bill Knight, Joan Gaudet, and Jerry Mundy battle getting older while greeting soldiers as they depart for the Iraq war and celebrating their return when they come home. The doc informs us that since March 2003, nearly one million soldiers and marines from across the country have been greeted at the Bangor International Airport. With each flight, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, these volunteers have been there to send them off and welcome them home.

The movie is a story of the part of the war we hardly see – the brave faces soldiers put on as they muster the courage to exit out to the plane that will take them into the unknown – the kind stranger that gives you a hug and thanks you for your service – the veterans and what they have done for us – and yet truly the documentary does not make any comment on the war but instead celebrates the human heart.

Directed by Aron Gaudet, the story is a personal one as his mother Joan is one of the three highlighted in the film, and yet you would never know it. Instead, Gaudet coolly lets the camera remain in a static position to capture the story and let the viewer become engaged on their own instead of forcing us to care. And it works so well. The pacing of the story is leisurely but never makes you want to check your watch. Instead you enter their world and become enamored with their touching stories.

Interweaving the personal story of the retirees with their airport experiences, we come to embrace the three for their struggles and need to do something. As the story unfolds we move from understanding that they are not escaping their lives but have truly found a fountain of youth, a well upon which to draw inspiration and courage, clearly not understanding that they do the same for countless others.

I know they definitely inspired me.

One SXSW screening left today: 7:00 PM, Thursday March 19th – Austin Convention Ctr


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