Father Soldier Son
Directors: Catrin Einhorn, Leslye Davis
Cast: Brian Eisch, Isaac Eisch, Joseph Eisch, Maria Eisch, Jordan Delano, Jaxon Eisch
There have been Indian films that have spoken about the valour of our military or police force. We have seen how families have rallied around after the man of the house is killed in action, and in what is seen as pure patriotism, a son is later sent to join the forces. A Netflix documentary, Father Soldier Son, helmed by Catrin Einorn and Leslye Davis – and produced with the help of the New York Times – follows an American family for almost a decade, documenting its tragedies and happier times. The narrative is excellent in a comfortable run time of 99 minutes.
American soldier, a doting father of two boys, Brian Eisch has to serve in treacherous Afghanistan. He is a divorcee, and his boys have to live with their uncle, seeing their father once in six months when he returns home on leave. It is not easy for the boys, both under 12, with a mother gone and a father serving the US Army in a far away land. But Brian is too much of a patriot who believes that he must fight for his country. But after an injury, he is forced to quit the army. With his leg amputated, he knows that he can never return to the battlefield.
He is disillusioned and finds it hard to get over his handicap. It is not so much about losing a leg as it is about trying to tame his patriotic instinct. And he is in a hurry to see his sons grow up so that they may uphold the family tradition of serving the country. While the younger son is okay with the idea, the elder boy is not too keen. He wishes to go to college. But Brian and his new girlfriend try and convince the son that life in the Army is gloriously rewarding.
A terrible tragedy intervenes that forces the family to rethink. But only for a while.
The documentary does meander at times, but happily stays away from moralising. The directors – who are journalists – give us a story that is gripping most of the time. There is no voiceover, and even the interviews ( a real bore in most of the documentaries) are kept to the very minimum. They are almost snippets which push the story seamlessly.
In the end, the elder son does enlist in the Army, but questions why he and his countrymen ought to be fighting a war in Afghanistan. What is the idea behind this conflict? Indeed a very relevant question! But the answer does not come. He has been asked to don the uniform, and he will do it. A very distressing moment in Father Soldier Son. Indeed so.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is author, commentator and movie critic)