Father Soldier Son is a 2020 American documentary film directed and produced by Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis.
It follows the family of Brian Eisch, a Sergeant First Class in the United States Army, and the effects of his deployment to the War in Afghanistan has on him and his young sons.
The film was released on 17 July 2020 by Netflix.
In 2010, US Army Sergeant First Class Brian Eisch is a single father of two sons, Isaac, age 12, and Joey, age 7. While he is away on deployment in Afghanistan for 6 months, the boys live with their uncle, and long to have their father back home. They are happily reunited for a brief 2-week interlude in the deployment, during which they enjoy camping, hunting, and fishing together. Brian expresses that his greatest fear is returning home affected by his wartime experiences, and potentially becoming angry and yelling at his kids, a sentiment echoed by his kids, who have heard such stories from their friends.
Back in the field, Brian is shot in the leg while attempting to rescue an Afghan National Army comrade. At Walter Reed Medical Centre, Brian’s leg is treated, although doctors cannot guarantee it will heal and tell him to consider amputation. Brian struggles to continue with his hobbies, being in debilitating pain, and finds himself struggling to continue with daily life. He mentions his feelings of being a “used-to-could”, an individual who used to be useful to the Army and country, and ponders whether he is a burden on the institution that he loves.
Three years later, Brian has his leg amputated at the VA Centre in Syracuse. He is supported by his girlfriend, Maria, who also brings her third child, Jordan, to live with the family. At age 10, Jordan enjoys playing with Joey, now of the same age. Brian, meanwhile, struggles with the delayed healing process for his leg, and his repeated inability to start using a prosthetic. Eventually, however, he is able to progress and begin to move around slowly. Having previously been a successful wrestler in high school, he coaches Joey from the sidelines, but Joey does not respond well to his more aggressive coaching. Brian proposes to Maria on a family outing.
Eight months after amputation, Brian progresses to a more advanced prosthetic and starts to tentatively run short distances on his own. He also begins to sell plastic bass lures, to occupy some of his time during the bleak winter months. Joey aspires for a career in the Army, while Isaac, somewhat disillusioned by the separation inherent in the military lifestyle, expresses his hopes to go to college and become a police officer. Brian and Maria are happily married, with both expressing their desire to love all of the children as their own.
Two months after this happy time, in July 2015, the family is struck by tragedy when Joey, age 12, is struck by a truck while on his bicycle outside the family home. He dies in hospital and the family buries him shortly thereafter in a ceremony with much of the community. All of the family are profoundly affected, but hope to slowly move on, without forgetting their beloved son. That fall, Isaac starts his last year of high school alongside Jordan, and eventually decides to enlist in the Army. While he previously resolved not to do so, he feels somewhat obligated in the honour of Joey and his father, with Brian in particular being extremely proud to see his son in uniform. Isaac goes to his senior prom and graduates high school shortly afterwards.
The family says a tearful but proud goodbye to Isaac as he departs for Basic Combat Training. While he is there, Brian and Maria share the news that they are expecting a son, Jaxon. The family is overjoyed to see Isaac graduate and begin military service. With Jaxon’s birth, the family begins to move emotionally forward from Joey’s tragic death.
Two years later, in 2019, Isaac expresses some of his regrets about military life, and it not necessarily being what he idolised it to be. He also shares that he has begun to feel depressed over the past year, feeling the weight of his biological mother leaving, his father’s injury, and brother’s death all at once. The family is seen happily with Jaxon, although Maria states that Brian hides his internal anger, still wishing he was the man he once was both physically and mentally. The film closes with Isaac expressing his hope that he can live up to his father’s record in the military, and be like the man he has looked up to his entire life.
Filmmakers Leslye Davis and Catrin Einhorn are journalists with The New York Times.
The project originated when Einhorn and James Dao reported on the life of Sergeant First Class Brian Eisch, a single father deployed to Afghanistan.
Marcus Yam and Damon Winter shot photographs and video for an article and multimedia piece, published in 2010, that showed the effects of his service on him and his two young sons.
Einhorn asked Davis to join her in 2014 to continue documenting the family, and over the years the pair decided to turn it into a feature-length film.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis.
- Rebecca Corbett … executive producer.
- James Dao … executive producer.
- Leslye Davis … producer.
- Sam Dolnick … executive producer.
- Catrin Einhorn … producer.
- Nancy Gauss … producer (as Nancy Donaldson Gauss).
- Kathleen Lingo … producer.
- Kara Rozansky … production executive.
- Ariane Wu … executive producer.
- Music: Nathan halpern.
- Cinematography: Leslye Davis and Marcus Yam.
- Editor(s): Amy Foote.
- Production: Netflix and New York Times Productions.
- Distributor(s): Netflix.
- Release Date: 17 July 2020.
- Running Time: 99 minutes.
- Rating: 15.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.