Online Orlando Sentinel review
Online Rotten Tomatoes website review
"Brats: Our Journey Home" (4 stars out of 5)
Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel Movie Critic
May 18, 2007
Cast: Kris Kristofferson, Norman Schwarzkopf, Margot Knight, many others.
Director: Donna Musil.
Runtime: 1 hour, 31 minutes.
Rating: Unrated - some profanity, adult themes.
On DVD: TBA
They integrated decades before the rest of America. They go to college, hide their feelings by nature,
adjust better to new social situations and suffer from bulimia or anorexia in proportions far greater
than America at large.
They can be "arrogant" or excessively insecure, disciplined but utterly resistant to authority,
restless and rootless or obsessively concerned with putting down roots.
Children of the military make up 5 percent of America's population, and often did most of their
growing up in foreign lands. Their homes were "like Hollywood versions of 1950s small towns --
surrounded by barbed wire." Having moved time and again through their childhoods -- giving up home,
friends, school and pets -- they live their lives with permanent cases of "the three year itch."
Because, as one woman who grew up a child of a military family says, "Military brats don't belong anywhere."
Brats: Our Journey Home is a splendid documentary that explores this rarefied "cruel" life of "privilege,"
pain and responsibility, all lived at the point of America's spear.
Donna Musil's film, which will show at 12:30 Sunday May 20 at the Enzian Theater in Maitland and
at 6:30 Wednesday May 23 at the Central Brevard Library in Cocoa, talks with experts and actual brats.
Snippets from military training films, The Great Santini (based on Marine Corps brat Pat
Conroy's book) and home movies are interspersed with conversations with people who grew up
wondering if their experience growing up was unique. Narrated by Kris Kristofferson (an Air Force brat
himself), this documentary seeks to explain the complicated psyches of a little-studied,
little-thought-about social subset of America. They're finding each other in the Internet age, sharing
stories and starting to understand how their upbringing formed or scarred them in identifiable ways.
"Parents in the military must do what the military tells them to do," one brat says. Families move
at the whim of the brass, school-year and friendships be darned. Children had to behave because to do
otherwise would reflect on their military parents. Pressures turned many of them "dysfunctional,"
ill-adjusted to long-term relationships, too comfortable with alcohol or violence.
Their lifelong uncertainty starts from what their father (and now mother) did and how dangerous his
military job might have been during the Cold War, Vietnam or the Gulf Wars. Families that have to
abandon so much (belongings, too) so often deal with near-poverty while living in exotic locales.
The "socialized" medicine, subsidized purchasing power and the like are given at the cost of privacy.
Everything can go into the military members' personal file.
Conversely, they grew up in a world where all the other kids were red, white and blue, not black,
white, Hispanic or Asian. They're a lot more racially tolerant than society at large, and have been
for generations. The brats in the movie are a fascinating cross-section, from Kristofferson and
General Norman Schwarzkopf to Central Florida United Arts CEO Margot Knight.
"My lost tribe," Kristofferson poetically narrates in the film, "spent their entire youth in service
to this country. And no one knew we were even there."
Brats does most everything you'd want a good documentary to do -- it informs us about a
corner of the culture we've overlooked, lays out the good, the bad and the unhappy about this
lifestyle and changes the way we look at these people and the world their country makes them and
needs them to live in differently.