Written and directed by Claudia Myers, who spent five years making documentaries and training videos for the United States military, Fort Bliss follows one female soldier’s journey back home after a 15-month deployment.
Sergeant Maggie Swann (Michelle Monaghan) is an Army medic and single mother who returns to her home in Fort Bliss, Texas after serving in Afghanistan. Maggie’s homecoming takes an unexpected turn when her five-year-old son Paul barely recognizes her. Paul is comfortable at home living with his father (Ron Livingston) and his father’s fiancée (Emmanuelle Chriqui), so Maggie’s presence startles him, and the two struggle to reconnect as mother and son.
Maggie loves her job and serving her country but is torn when she is called back for another deployment so soon after her homecoming. Fort Bliss begs the question that many military moms face: “Can we work overseas for months and years at a time and still be a good mother? Can we have it all?”
In an intimate round table in Washington, D.C., Michelle Monaghan tells Breitbart News how much training was involved and what type of research she did in order to play an Army Medic, how she took her own personal experience of being a real-life mom to the role, and why she thinks stories about female veterans are absent from our culture.
“Claudia Meyers and I really wanted to do everything from the soldiers’ perspective. We wanted it to be authentic. So, everything was Army standard specifications and told from a soldier’s perspective. When I got hold of [the script], I had complete and utter faith in her, because she had done all of her homework, and we had [military] approval,” Monaghan said.
The True Detective actress is passionate about supporting the military and talking about some of the serious issue females in the military face today. Monaghan said:
You are a devoted father if you go away and provide for your family. But [some perceive it as] you’re being a “bad mother” if a woman does it. I think it’s a very honorable thing for anyone to do, just as honorable for a woman, to go away and serve your country and come home and tell your kids, “Mommy is really proud of what she does.” As moms and dads, all we want is a job or career that they’re proud of, and you can be an example to them.
Monaghan and Myers were able to talk to several soldiers before filming the movie, and she said talking to them helped her prepare for the role. And, being a mom of two young children herself, she took some personal experience and put it into the role. Monaghan said:
What was so invaluable was having access to the soldiers, and the women soldiers in particular, talking to them as moms and really hearing what their struggles were and what their emotional states were and are, really just appreciating the challenges and gauging that, so I had an emotional understanding and confidence to then portray or convey their experiences in a very honest and truthful way. It is something I took so seriously, I really did.
There haven’t been many films that tackle this particular subject matter fully, so when asked about what she hopes military moms will take away from the movie, Monaghan hopes she will do them justice.
“Stories about female veterans are nearly absent from our culture! They’re completely non-existent. Women are the largest, fastest-growing vet community among soldiers. This is not going away and [Fort Bliss] really tackles traditional roles,” Monaghan said.
With a powerhouse performance from Michelle Monaghan that is easily one of the best of her career, Fort Bliss is a film that looks at military moms truthfully and eloquently. Director and writer Claudia Myers tackles the subject of motherhood and military beautifully, and hopefully there will be more realistic stories like this one to come out of Hollywood.
Fort Bliss opens in select theaters and VOD on September 19, 2014.