This documentary is that rare breed especially for films concerning current wars – a film with no political agenda (or at least none obvious and clear). Instead this film concerns itself with the immediate matter: namely, some can argue about the merits of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but the three senior citizens this movie concerns itself address what is needed this very minute and that is to have someone say goodbye, good luck and thanks to those going off to war and those, sometimes fewer in number, returning.
For you don't have to support the war to support the troops and to tell them thanks… or to do things these three do like giving them free cell phones to use to call loved ones when they return home. Some of those scenes of big tough looking soldiers looking suddenly like children as they call their moms are quite touching.
The movie is at terms sobering and depressing but at others uplifting – throughout it is very engaging. It is the kind of movie, like Young@Heart, which will make you take a fresh look at some issues. For example, these three – like the elderly choir in Young@Heart – are, like the soldiers in The Way We Get By, contemplating the end of their life.
A note at the end of the movie explains that the director decided to make this movie when he realized his mom had joined two others in becoming a welcoming committee at an airport in Bangor, Maine, which a large number of soldiers went to on the way to and from the war.
If you want to see a movie about what war is like, see Restrepo or Hurt Locker. If you want to see a movie about why we fight, check out, well, Why We Fight (link). But if you want to see a documentary that is praised alike by AARP and film festival audiences then get this documentary. This Wikipedia piece explains some ways the film and its participants have since been honored
I'll close this review with these words from a review at Film Critic
Although I'm reluctant to begin this review with the much overused phrase, 'No matter how you feel about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,' in this case it's totally appropriate. So no matter how you feel about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Way We Get By, a documentary focusing on elderly residents of Bangor, Maine who go to the airport to greet the thousands of soldiers who are traveling to and from the war zones, will melt your heart. But don't be distracted by the patriotic sweatshirts and images of American flags flying in the bright and cold Maine winter sky. This is not an exercise in propaganda. It's a tearjerking meditation on finding meaning in life at the end of life. The cameras dwell not on the soldiers but on the old folks who work so hard to shake all their hands.