Movies, Drama
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Here's a neat trick: Michael Shannon, so arresting in Take Shelter as a family man falling into his own private Idaho, now takes the opposite role as the mystified spouse (at which he might be even better). Return is a quieter film---no apocalyptic doom clouds here---and, in some ways, a better one. The monster is nothing less than a forgotten identity: Kelli (Cardellini), a National Reservist, is back from her tour of duty in the Middle East and slowly comes to reject husband, kids and her hole-punching job down at the factory. Listlessly, she quits the gig and tries painting the living room a new shade; mainly, though, she drinks, slipping into an irresponsible fog.

There's no traumatizing incident waiting for us at the end---nothing to uncover. Writer-director Liza Johnson has (not so) simply created a movie about a woman's transitional moment, and the film feels all the more earthy for it. Shannon's hubby strays into infidelity, while Kelli finds a kindred drifter (Mad Men's soulful Slattery, humorously off the grid) at a court-appointed therapy session. The children watch the partner swaps and persevere. Return is almost too underdramatized to seem like a piece of today's zoomy entertainment, but its anxieties---the bare cupboards, the vague sense of purposelessness---are at the heart of the American experience for many. It's what indie filmmaking ought to be.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

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By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Release date: Monday January 30 2012
Duration: 101 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Liza Johnson
Screenwriter: Liza Johnson
Cast: Talia Balsam
Emma Rayne Lyle
Linda Cardellini
Michael Shannon
John Slattery