‘Love and Honor’ tries to honor the past

Teresa Palmer and Liam Hemsworth in 'Love and Honor'
Teresa Palmer and Liam Hemsworth in ‘Love and Honor’

In 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, while here on Earth, dozens (maybe hundreds) of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam got so-called “Dear John” letters from their girlfriends back home.  They’re called Dear John letters because during WWII, most letters from the girl back home began “My dearest Johnny” or “My darling” or something equally affectionate and sugar-coated.  When a letter started with the terse “Dear John”, soldiers knew it was bad news.

In Love and Honor, the first feature film from director Danny Mooney, “Dalton Joiner” (Stowell) is serving as his platoon’s point man in Vietnam.  He is amazing when it comes to sniffing out booby-traps and claims his ability to focus gets the credit.  He says he is so focused because he just wants to get home alive to “Jane” because he and she are so in love.

Until he gets a Dear John from Jane.  The timing is fortuitous because he and his good friend “Mickey Wright” (Hemsworth) have survived almost certain death when their listening post was ambushed, thanks to the bravery of “Burns” (Adler).  He is wounded and is flown home, while Dalton and Mickey find themselves in Hong Kong with the rest of their buddies, worried about Burns but very happy about the prospect of seven days of “R&R” (military acronym for Rest and Recreation).

Dalton has other plans.  He’s hopping a flight home to win back the heart of Jane.  He does have a week after all.  Mickey decides he had better go with his friend.  What they find in Ann Arbor, where she is going to school is quite surprising.  Jane now goes by the moniker of Juniper and lives in a communal-type house with others who share her anti-war views.  Dalton and Mickey are in uniform and are feeling quite unwelcome until Mickey ad-libs that the duo has actually deserted and are on the run.  Suddenly they are very welcome and Juniper finds herself falling in love with Dalton again.

“Candace” (Palmer) is intrigued by Mickey and her partner in writing an anti-war publication with “Peter” (Lowell) and wants to put the story of the deserter duo in their magazine.  They promise anonymity but Mickey declines initially.  The inevitable discovery of the deception is accompanied by problems at protests, run-ins with law enforcement and the predictable romantic intertwining of Mickey and Candace.

Clichés from the 1960s abound, including iconic songs, stock footage, ‘hippies’ and more.  There is a decent romance here between Hemsworth and Palmer although it isn’t set up well.  There are a few surprises but most of this is predictable and not great.  However the final act’s surprises and twists make up for the clichés and other flaws.  Teen girls will adore the moments excuses are found for Hemsworth to go sans shirt.  He is good in the role, overcoming the scripted material.  Palmer and Teegarden are both very good, and the good moments in the film far outweigh those few moments where viewers may feel the need to look at their watches.

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