Troops [1998]

Touching and powerful, Last Letters Home is an emotional documentary that features 10 families reading aloud the last letters they received from loved ones who lost their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Presented in a suitably straightforward, unembellished style by director Bill CouturiƩ (director of HBO's Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam), the film displays close-up pictures of the soldiers in military and civilian life as family members read and reminisce (of the 10 soldiers profiled, the oldest was 51 years old; the youngest was only 19). In the end, this film, which premiered on HBO, is really about the families left behind to mourn and honor the lives of the fallen. In one typically poignant piece, the mother of fallen SPC Robert Allen Wise relates the moment when she received the dreaded news. It was her birthday. She had been expecting to hear from her son but, as she says, "I got a knock on the door instead.... When you open the door and you see two uniforms and a chaplain... nobody has to say anything." To their credit, the families are admirably open in sharing their experiences; there are outpourings of profound grief and sadness, but there is also immense pride and joy in the memories of their loved ones who served. It may be difficult to watch at times, but seeing the personal cost of war, unfiltered by network news and unstained by political agendas, makes Letters an intensely intimate and human experience. --Dan Vancini

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