In the late ’70s, a quiet film addressed the hard part for many war veterans in the film Coming Home.
Based on an original screenplay by Nancy Dowd commissioned by Jane Fonda, the film was directed by Hal Dowd and starred Bruce Dern, Jon Voight, Bruce Carradine and Fonda.
Jane Fonda plays Sally, who is married to Marine Captain Bob Hyde (played by Bruce Dern), who is deployed to Vietnam.
After he leaves, Sally, who now can no longer live on the military base, decides to volunteer at the veterans hospital hoping to help a friend’s brother who has just returned from the war zone.
Sally meets Luke (Jon Voigt) who she went to highschool with and they become friends. He has returned from Vietnam as a paraplegic. As they renew their friendship, and Luke heals physically and emotionally, the duo become closer, as Luke becomes independent, he commits to being anti-war.
His close friend Billy (Robert Carradine) who has also returned from Vietnam can’t handle the realities of war and now being home. He commits suicide which solidifies Luke’s commitment to end the war while he and Sally start having an affair.
As the two realize their relationship must end when Bob returns, he comes home early, after learning through military intelligence that his wife was having a fling with Luke. He claims he accidentally injured himself and is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. As a war film that doesn’t show any scenes of combat, its a film that illuminates the effects on those left behind and those who return.
Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone and Jack Nicholson were considered for the husband, but then Jon Voigt was chosen. He felt he would be better served as Luke, and Bruce Dern was hired for the part of the husband.
Released in February 1978, the small budget film was based on Fonda’s desire to create a film initially about the women left behind, which was developed into this relationship film, one of the first films to showcase the reality of what happens after war.
Made for US$3 million, the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where Voigt won a Best Actor Award.
The film was a success at the box office, making $36 million. Fonda, Dern and Voigt were nominated for Academy Awards for their performance, and in total the film was nominated for eight Oscars, with wins for Fonda, Voigt and for Best Original Screenplay.