If cinema is written by the losers, the other losers of the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese people, take their well-deserved spotlight in Journey From the Fall. With a heavy-handed agenda, writer/director Ham Tran chronicles one family’s plight for survival from 1975 on, after the last Americans have pulled out of Vietnam. Relentlessly long and told out of order, the film falls prey to massive overkill. Tran’s recovery of communist re-education camps and overloaded refugee boats make the aftermath of China’s civil war in Zhang Yimou’s To Live look like summer camp.
But for all its millions more sufferers, Journey offers little more than themes of trauma familiar to American Vietnam War films: once in California, the child of a missing South Vietnamese loyalist has adjustment problems; his mother lives in denial; his widow’s soul has escaped her. Contrasting the day-glo banality of their life in America against mud and blood-streaked scenes in Vietnam, Tran renders physical survival meaningless, while the only thing real is the horror, the horror.