Being in war is hard, but so is re-adjusting to civilian life when service is over. Jason Hall’s drama is adapted from the eponymous book by journalist David Finkel. The story focuses on three men, all buddies who served in Iraq during the surge; the film opens when a mission goes horribly wrong. But the much-anticipated homecoming has its own problems. Billy (Joe Cole) discovers his girlfriend has left him, and quickly spirals downward. Solo (Beulah Koale) can’t wait to re-enlist, which is likely an attempt to put off facing the hard reality that he is suffering likely traumatic brain injuries. The most adjusted of them, Adam (Miles Teller), is nonetheless uneasy around his wife and young children; he’s jumpy, plagued with nightmares and unfocused. Everything has changed but in ways the men have trouble understanding or articulating.
The film follows them through about a year’s time, as the returning vets come to terms with what happened to them in Iraq — beside the day-to-day grind, there was the mission gone bad, the emotionally devastating details of which are gradually laid out — and how acutely it has changed them. The film is best when it keeps the drama small-scale, but a subplot with Solo and some local criminals feels a bit forced. And Thank You manages to find the line between public-service announcement about PTSD, indictment of well-meaning but meager services provided by the Veterans Administration, and emotionally charged drama. It may not be the best movie ever about these collateral costs of war, but it’s a good starting point.