When its three subjects aren't at the airport, they wrestle with their own problems: failing health, depression, mounting debt. Joan, a grandmother of eight, has a deep connection to the soldiers she meets. The sanguine Jerry keeps his spirits up even as his personal problems mount. And the veteran Bill, who clearly has trouble taking care of himself, finds himself contemplating his own death. Seeking out the telling detail rather than offering sweeping generalizations, the film carefully builds stories of heartbreak and redemption, reminding us how our culture casts our elders, and too often our soldiers, aside. More important, regardless of your politics, The Way We Get By celebrates three unsung heroes who share their love with strangers who need and deserve it.
"The Way We Get By is not so much a slice of life as the whole pie, the highs and lows of twilight living, all found and filmed in a terminal at an airport in Maine. What a country." --Dan Zak, WAHINGTON POST
Unfailingly modest and profoundly humane, The Way We Get By profiles three people over 70 whose lives have been changed by a simple act of service: greeting troops at Bangor International Airport in Maine.
For the last six years, Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet (the mother of the film's writer and director, Aron Gaudet) have welcomed and bade adieu to almost a million grateful soldiers and Marines. Offering handshakes and hugs, candy and free phone calls, the greeters volunteer around the clock, often rising in the wee hours and in treacherous weather.
"It puts a little meaning back into my life," says Mr. Knight, 87, a World War II veteran who can no longer afford to feed his beloved cats. For Mr. Mundy, 74, the vocation eases the pain of his son's death many years earlier, while Ms. Gaudet, 75, whose eight children are busy living their own lives, admits she would "be lost" without the airport routine. As the three wage their own private battles - with illness, loneliness and crippling debt - the director slowly extrapolates a portrait of society's overlooked: those whose compassion reflects an awareness that death is more than an abstraction.
Neither pro- nor antiwar (unlike many cable-news ideologues, Mr. Gaudet and his subjects easily distinguish between the troops and their mission), this fine, affecting film perfectly exemplifies Milton's famous claim: "They also serve who only stand and wait." --Jeannette Catsoulis, NEW YORK TIMES