Coming Home is the story of Sally Hyde and Luke Martin, Sally the wife of a Marine who has just been sent off to Vietnam and Luke a veteran whose experience in the war has left him paralyzed. Even though the film takes place in 1968, Sally is the perfect example of the ideal American housewife that we think of from the 1950s, making her entire life around her husband Bob. However, when he leaves, she goes to volunteer at a veteran’s hospital even though she knows Bob would not approve. There she reconnects with her high school classmate Luke.
This past February marked 40 years since Coming Home‘s release. Definitely time for a reflection on it and the effect it’s had on me, especially since I finally saw it all uncut since those days before TCM aired films “uncut and commercial free.” This film was the one that made Hal Ashby my favorite American filmmaker for years.
Disclaimer: This essay was written 2 years ago soon after the loss of one of the most influential music artists of my time. A few things have been updated since then, but the original version still remains on my blog.
While Black women are expected to nurture and take care of others, we aren’t allowed to be lonely for ourselves. We aren’t supposed to have our own needs. And we’re supposed to like it even without the expectation of anyone else providing emotional support for our benefit. Loneliness isn’t something that Black women are supposed to experience in our day-to-day lives while we are busy being superwomen for everyone not falling under the category of Black times woman. We’re most certainly not supposed to be introverts. So what happens when you find yourself a Black woman possibly in middle age coming to terms with loneliness in your life and reconciling it being an introvert lacking the skills to secure your social circle for your later years?
I first heard of this film when I still lived at home with my dad and had access to satellite television including the Reels channel where film critic Leonard Maltin had a show. If I remember correctly, he mostly liked the film and the performances of the two leads, Wyatt Cenac and Tracey Heggins. Honestly, I can’t see a film lover not enjoying this film. But I wasn’t able to see it back then in 2008. In fact, I only saw it for the first time a few years ago, probably around the time the film’s lead Wyatt Cenac left The Daily Show. I most definitely had the DVD by 2015 when I decided to include the film as part of my retrospective of Black representation in film 100 years after The Birth of a Nation.
Before we begin, I need to issue a content warning for anyone who might be a bit sex repulsed as this show contains a short discussion about sex and sexuality.
I love this film unironically. I find it genuinely funny with a heartwarming ending. And I also find a type of Black girl representation we rarely get to see in film. There’s so much I love about Jessica James that I decided this month I should try to unpack it. Maybe then I can stop watching it every day and stop immersing myself in this world that feels so much like an impossible aspiration yet almost heartbreakingly familiar. So here is an incredibly spoilerific discussion about The Incredible Jessica James.