(MA15+) Eagle DVD/BD
Commemorative days such as the United States’ Memorial Day raise issues around war and memory. How do we remember war without glorifying it? Unfortunately this film’s treatment of such themes rarely rises above the formulaic.
Memorial Day is structured around a conversation between 13-year-old Kyle and his grandfather, Bud, on Memorial Day 1993. Kyle finds Bud’s footlocker full of World War II souvenirs and Bud reluctantly agrees to share the memories behind three of these items. The action then shuttles between combat scenes from Bud’s past and Iraq War combat scenes from Kyle’s future.
Strengths of this film include big budget action and solid performances from James Cromwell (the elderly Bud) and Jackson Bond (the young Kyle). There are also the seeds of some interesting ideas. For example, Bud is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, presenting the irony of a man dreading the loss of memory despite the anguish his memories have brought him.
Memorial Day has some serious flaws, however. The film loses momentum as it moves between time periods and the formulaic set-up of most combat scenes makes them predictable, limiting suspense. There are moments of narrative confusion and the use of Christian imagery (such as the rosary Kyle inherits from Bud) seems tokenistic. Finally, Bud’s letter to Kyle (read aloud towards the film’s conclusion) emerges as an apologetic for war that many might find problematic.
The film ends with Kyle promising to pass Bud’s memories and stories on to his own son someday.
Memorial Day is right to celebrate this – but only as long as the stories are true.