Title: Love and Honor
Director: Danny Mooney
People often struggle with the lengths they would go to protect and help someone they truly love and care about, whether a friend or a significant other. This is particularly true for the main characters, Vietnam War soldiers Dalton Joiner and Mickey Wright, in the new romance war drama ‘Love and Honor.’ One brash choice leads the two young adults into a very mature situation that involves life and death decisions. First time feature film director Danny Mooney elegantly chronicled the struggles the two soldiers faced, including political turmoil, cultural differences and riots, in just one week of their tour of duty. Even with a limited budget, the film intriguingly examines the truths and tests forced on the strongest relationships, and betrayals from those the soldiers ever expected to do wrong.
‘Love and Honor’ follows Dalton (Austin Stowell) and Mickey (Liam Hemsworth) in July 1969, as they go to any lengths for love. While actively serving in the war, Dalton’s girlfriend, Jane (Aimee Teegarden), breaks up with him through a letter, leaving him upset and confused. He decides to return to America during his week leave to try to win her back. Mickey, never one to miss out on a good time or to support his friend, decides to join Dalton on his journey to the University of Michigan.
Once the two soldiers return to Michigan, they discover that Jane, who’s now going by the name of Juniper, is living in a house with several free-spirited hippies. But Dalton is still determined to change Jane’s mind and make it back to the war without getting caught. While Dalton tries to win Jane back, one of her beautiful, committed activist friends, Candance (Teresa Palmer), catches Mickey’s eye. While she’s at the heart of the anti-war movement, he’s still determined to grab her attention. Along the way, the two friends must make some life changing decisions, as they learn the truth about love, honor and commitment.
While Hemsworth made a name for himself last year in the hit action adventure films ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘The Expendables 2,’ Mooney smartly hired the actor to portray the womanizing, yet compassionate and determined, soldier who would sacrifice his freedom for those he cares about. While the romance drama is initially driven by Dalton’s desire to uncover the truth about why Jane ended their relationship, Hemsworth emotionally embodies the American soldiers’ sense of loyalty and commitment, not only to their country, but to those they care about as well. Mickey not only puts himself in danger with the government by following his friend back to America to help him repair his broken romantic relationship, but risks his own emotions by setting out to prove to Candance that not all soldiers are the enemy to American or Vietnamese citizens.
In the short week he’s back in America, witnessing Dalton and Jane trying to figure out where their relationship stands, Mickey becomes captivated with Candace’s free spirit. Hemsworth drastically and satisfyingly matures the soldier as a result of his surprising attraction to, and interaction with, the daring Candance. Whether Mickey and Candance are attending anti-war rallies together in the town square or having a seemingly peaceful debate about politics in her backyard, he comes to realize how important it is to not only continue fighting for her, and all Americans’, rights, but also how essential it is for him to have someone specific to want to defend.
‘Love and Honor’s costume designer, Karyn Wagner, also helped emphasize Mickey and Dalton’s commitment to defending their country, and debunking Jane and Candance’s belief that war doesn’t help solve political problems, through the diverse outfits the characters wore. Mickey and Dalton spend a good deal of time traveling in their military uniforms, in an effort to represent their pride in serving their country. But once Jane and Candance start believing the two men actually deserted their unit, instead of just traveling back to America for their week leave, Mickey and Dalton begin wearing nondescript civilian clothing, including jeans and T-shirts, in order to blend in and not attract the attention of the police.
Jane and Candance, meanwhile, regularly wore clothing that typically defined the hippie era, from tie-dyed shirts and dresses to bell bottom pants to peasant shirts. Their free-spirited outfits regularly accentuated their disdain for the international fighting, and belief that the American occupation in Vietnam should end. Wagner strongly and uniquely showcased the girls’ starkly different beliefs from the soldiers visually through their distinct day-to-day outfits. But by the end of the week, while Dalton and Mickey still tried to stay off the police’s radar, the girl’s growing influence did start to take an affect on the two soldiers, as they subtly began incorporating hippie elements into their clothing.
The script for ‘Love and Honor,’ which was penned by scribes Jim Burnstein and Garrett K. Schiff, does offer some cliched and predictable elements of many war dramas, including loyal soldiers beginning to question why America was fighting Vietnam, and who are torn between their loyalty to their government and serving American citizens who opposed the war. But Hemsworth was particularly well cast as the ever loyal Mickey, who emotionally embodies the American soldiers’ sense of loyalty and commitment, not only to their country, but to those they care about as well. The actor’s passionate portrayal of the young soldier, and his greatly differing beliefs from Candance and Jane, where well emphasized by Wagner’s original costumes, which showcased how far people would go to stand up for what they believe in.
Written by: Karen Benardello