Walking into a critic’s screening creates an unusual juxtaposition of feelings in the pit of your stomach. On the one hand, you’re acutely aware that you’re getting to see a movie months before its release, and as the theater staff usher you off to a screen with a form of pseudo secrecy, it’s easy to feel like you’re kind of a big deal.

But then you reach your seat, and the pomp and circumstance of the situation gives way to the sobering reality that you’re still just you, sitting alone in the dark as strangers mill about around you.

In that way, being a movie critic isn’t that unlike serving in the military.  For many of us, we get so enthralled in the build up, in the training, in a lifestyle that gives you this palpable sense of being, or at least BECOMING, kind of a big deal… but then, once the “thank you’s” for your service subside, and your dress uniform is hung back up in the closet… it’s just you again, alone in the dark.

I walked into the screening for “Thank You For Your Service” just as I would for any other movie, but I’ll admit, a part of me was on guard.  I knew from the trailer that this film had set out to depict the tragedy of veteran struggles with PTSD and suicide, and that’s a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  I’ve lost three friends to suicide over the years.  One was under my direct command.  Just bringing up the subject alone is enough to spur a nauseas remorse… this sense that even if you could have prevented it, the world forgives you out of pity, so you can never really know for sure how much of the blame you assign yourself is warranted, and how much is just still there because guilt can be sticky sometimes.