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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Love Triangle

Coming Home (1978) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Over a game of pool, some gimpy vets discuss whether they'd go back to 'Nam (“Combat City”) given the chance. Some of them would out of patriotic duty (“moral obligation.”) Actually, these guys aren't going over again, but in 1968 more are being sent over, including Capt. Bob Hyde (Bruce Dern) and his buddy Sgt. Dink Mobley (Robert Ginty.) They get sent off by one's dutiful wife Sally Hyde (Jane Fonda) and the other's doting girl­friend Vi Munson (Penelope Milford), respectively. Sally now must find new digs once her officer husband is no longer housed on base, so she rents a beach house. For wheels she buys a speedster. To occupy her time she volunteers at the base hospital where her new friend Vi works, Vi also looking after her shell-shocked brother Bill Munson (Robert Carradine.)

Sally befriends a partially paralyzed patient Luke Martin (Jon Voight) who'd been foot­ball team captain of Lincoln High School while she'd been a cheer­leader there, Sally Bender at the time. The team's nick­name for her was “Bend 'er Over,” ha, ha. Luke fantasizes about her. Sally gets lonely. Events take their course. When her husband Bob finally returns state­side, a little worse for the wear, he has more to cope with than with­drawal from combat, while Luke takes up active opposition to Marine recruitment, and Sally's got to bend over back­wards to find a new equilibrium in her changing circumstances.


The recruiter asserts, “The Marine Corps builds body, mind and spirit.” Their slogan (in English) is: “Always faithful to God, country and corps.” That was shortened to Semper fidelis, and shortened again to Semper fi In my review of the movie “RED 2”, I discussed St. Paul's (long-winded) advice on Christian behavior in Ephesians 5. “Coming Home” covers the segment of Eph. 5:21-22, and more particularly, (Eph. 5:21) “Submit­ting your­selves one to another in the fear of God.” The Marines being there for each other (the corps), or for patriotism (“I wanted to go out and kill for my country”), or fighting for the God-endowed freedom of the Vietnamese as discussed in the opening scene.

When we meet Luke he's in a hurry to wheel his bed to the bathroom to deliver his full bag—he's on a catheter. Weaving through the crowded corridors, he's every bit the foot­ball captain out to score a touch­down. Then he gets sacked by Sally who blunders into him. His reaction, in military parlance, is a "shit­storm." He vocally complains there aren't enough nurses and orderlies to do their part after he and his buddies had done theirs. Sally takes it to heart and goes down to the Volunteers Office (“I'd like to volunteer.”)

Her motivation is further confirmed when she discusses with her women's group who publish a base (gossip) rag that they ought to promote the cause of the disabled. The men had done their part, and now we should do ours, i.e. (Eph. 5:21) “Submit­ting your­selves one to another in the fear of God.”

Bob and Dink send for Sally and Vi to join them on their five days of R&R in HK. Sally goes but Vi doesn't want to quit her job and leave her brother. When Dink complains of Vi's absence, Sally defends her by saying she's not under his command to quit her job: “Like women and dogs, you gotta have a license to show you're the owner.” Unlike Dink and Vi, how­ever, Bob and Sally are married, and Bob objects to her working, in part because of possible temptations brought about by intimate care. And we can't entirely discount that even though until now Sally has “never been unfaithful to my husband.” Consider the advice given a man in (Sirach 9:9) “Sit not at all with another man's wife, nor sit down with her in thine arms, and spend not thy money with her at the wine; lest thine heart incline unto her, and so through thy desire thou fall into destruction.” That puts Sally in a bind between Eph. 5:21 wanting to be a boon to those who'd already given a limb or more, and obedience to her husband as enjoined by the very next verse, (Eph. 5:22) “Wives, submit your­selves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” My Criswell Study Bible lists the Greek term for submit (verse 22) as “hupotassō a military term which means ‘to place under’ or ‘to subordinate’.” When she returns to L.A. and Luke goes from being a mere casualty to being an advocate against enlistment, Sally is likely to be pushed in one direction or the other. I think she zigged when she should have zagged, but you'll have to form your own opinion.

In the Cambridge Paragraph Bible (1873), the subject of Christian body life, ending in verse 21 is separated from the next one of family life (that begins with verse 22) by a paragraph symbol (¶). In the old days when people routinely read out loud, and Paul being verbose, you'd want to pause there for a breath anyway. The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (2011) maintains that same paragraph structure. The New International Version that came out as a complete Bible in the same year (1978) this movie was made (1978)—the NIV NT was published earlier in 1973—breaks Paul's expansive thought on Christian body life into shorter sentences and then prints what was his ending clause (Eph. 5:21) as a separate paragraph unto itself, before starting the next section, thus:

… [Paragraph artificially truncated here]

    [New isolated ¶] 21. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands

    22. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
[Paragraph continues] …

In the NIV it would be easy to mistake a hierarchical submission for the general be-a-good-sport submission of the earlier verse. Misap­prop­riating words from earlier verses is in grammar called enjambment. The NIV was copy­righted: 1973, 1978 & 1984, a time when our English language under­went deliberate modification due to problems (some) women had relating to men. Said Rush Limbaugh, “It's almost as if America went through its own feminist Cultural Revolution in the 1970s and early 1980s. Every­thing went mad for about ten years, and only now [1992] are we seeing young people who … view those years as some­what bizarre” (191). “Some­what bizarre” is how we might characterize the course Sally took as she seemed to pick up a new Bible with new priorities instead of the old one with its established values. Submission “to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV) would thus entail yielding to Luke's manly needs who'd chained him­self to the USMC gate like Christ on the cross. “Wives, submit your­selves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (KJV) if we regard “the Lord” as a High Authority to be obeyed, would have entailed Sally giving up her volunteer work (of submitting to the needs of the men) in order to obey her husband Bob, as Bob him­self had to obey his military orders when they with­drew him from combat. If Bob were just one of the boys requiring Sally's attention, well, Luke needed her more and was too available as is the enjambment of that earlier verse in the NIV.

Production Values

Coming Home” (1978) has a Vietnam era plot similar to the 1950 movie's “The Men” that followed the situation of a man made para­plegic in World War II. The 1978's plot also involves a love triangle, with: Sally's gradual emancipation, Luke's reclamation of his life, and Bob being at sea in it all. It was directed by Hal Ashby. Robert C. Jones and Waldo Salt wrote the poignant screen­play derived from Nancy Dowd's story. It stars Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, and Bruce Dern. “Coming Home” won two Academy Awards for lead actors Jon Voight and Jane Fonda. It was some of the best acting of Voight's career. Fonda, Voight, and Dern were all out­standing. Voight and Fonda seemed natural in their roles, while Dern's work excelled in his character acting.

It's a very adult film rated R It contains nudity—Fonda used a body double—and lots of harsh language. Out­side filming Location was Manhattan Beach, California, USA. It runs 127 minutes. The sound­track did not fit the action very well, but it was great period music. The director purchased licenses for the likes of The Stones, classic Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, and Simon & Garfunkel, playing them contin­ually through­out. Haskell Wexler does a great job with the camera, never intrusive but always cognizant of the altered abilities of these vets. Some editing contrasts their reduced mobility with children running around playing war games and one of the Smothers Brothers kicking up his heels on TV. The film is also date-stamped (1968) with an announcement of the assassination of Martin Luther King, a man who “devoted him­self to justice and love between fellow human beings,” but whose private life as taped by the FBI documented his womanizing, if one recalls history.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I grew up on the music, so I felt a strong affinity for the times this movie evoked. I did not participate in Vietnam, though; my draft board mostly didn't know where to find me. There's not any war action in it, not in a Hal Ashby film, but one may triangulate on it by the devastation it had wrought in the returning soldiers, and by their comments. I appreciated the movie mostly for its three-way drama of the love triangle. It was the first American film to deal with the Vietnam War, and people still needed some distance from it. There can be many reasons to see it or not see it. It is what it is.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Unless otherwise noted, scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769, 1873, 2011. Software, Print.

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrickson Pub.
   Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. Print, WEB.

Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.
   Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Print.

The Criswell Study Bible. Authorized King James Version. Nashville | Camden: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1979. Print.

Limbaugh, Rush. The Way Things Ought To Be. New York: Pocket Books, 1992. Print.