British director Alan Parker’s work has been critically neglected of late; his 1984 film Birdy shows him at the top of his game, directing Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine in a off-beat but moving drama about post-traumatic stress syndrome. Having been boyhood friends, Al (Cage) and Birdy (Modine) returns from Vietnam with emotional and physical scars that affect their relationship; Birdy is in hospital, and seems intent on realising his childhood dream to fly. Al is trying to bring his friend down to earth, but understands that Birdy’s dream of taking wing is potentially bad for his health. Adapted from a book by William Wharton, Birdy keeps the Vietnam flashbacks to the minimum, but focuses patiently on the friendship between the two men, topped of with a great final scene (and line) that wraps the story off with offhand aplomb.
Writer/director Kevin Reynolds is best known for his big-budget collaborations with Kevin Costner (Waterworld, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), but his first feature shows both director and star working to good effect. Costner plays Gardner Barnes, who hooks up with a group of buddies including Phil (The Breakfast Club’s Judd Nelson) for a road trip to Canada from Austin, Texas circa 1971, with the specter of being drafted to the Vietnam war looming in their minds. Unlike most coming of age films, Fandango is not based around sex, but instead male camaraderie is the subject; there’s a great scene in which the boys attach the bumper of their car to a speeding train with surprising results. Both Costner and Nelson would become key pop culture figures, and Fandango showcases their talent as an early stage.