First They Killed My Father - Review
Another month, another Netflix Original Movie. This one is different than any that has been released before it. First They Killed My Father is the haunting true story of a 5 year old girl named Loung Ung in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Angelina Jolie directed this, and you can tell the passion she has for getting this story told. Read on to see my complete review. (Minor spoilers ahead).
This is not a movie you can stumble into and just watch while browsing Netflix one night. You have to be in the right mindset for it. This may be the heaviest movie I've seen this year. There have been others, (like Dunkirk) but they don't even begin to compare to this.
Nearly the entire movie is seen through the eyes of a 5 year old girl. It shows how she perceives war. It is a different perspective than what we are used to, as when it is through an adult perspective, you get a more global view. This was all personal. She didn't care what was happening in other countries, Loung just wanted to be with her family and her old life.
Throughout the movie you are waiting for the title of the film to happen. It does, but way later than I thought it would. It was a good thing though, because you really get to see the relationship at work between Loung and her father. The relationship between Loung and every member of her family is important, and it does a good job of fleshing that out, so that events later - whether good or bad - are much more powerful.
Angelina Jolie wrote the script along side the real Loung Ung, and Jolie directed it as well. Jolie's first adopted son Maddox is Cambodian, so this story is close to her heart. She does a wonderful job behind the camera, and uses perspective and scale effectively to bring the audience into the view of a 5 year old.
The story itself is relentless. Being that it is based off of a true story, it seems to stick pretty close to it. They didn't inject a jolly chubby friend to make people laugh, akin to "Bad Ape" in War For the Planet of the Apes. Comic relief is a thing because it is hard for audiences to sit through two hours of something that devastating but it would have lessened the impact had there been something like that injected into the story.
First They Killed My Father is a wonderfully effective journey movie. It is rare that point "A" and point "B" don't really matter as much as how the characters got from one to the other. But it is portrayed so well that the end of the journey feels earned. It does end rather abruptly before getting one quick epilogue scene, but that is all that was needed. Loung's journey was complete, and there was nothing more to tell.
The movie is powerful, heavy, deep, effective, triumphant, bittersweet, sad, visceral, and real. I certainly wasn't educated in what happened over there, and maybe this will shine some light the situation for other people like me.
If you want to get lost in someone else's world while you escape from yours, and have fun there for two hours, this isn't that kind of movie. It is heavy and uncomfortable but necessary. However, if you want something that will make you feel things while watching, and have something to think about afterward, then seek out First They Killed My Father, it will put your life into perspective and stay with you for a long time.
First They Killed My Father is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.