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This week: "The Way We Get By"

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Not many war films dealing with Iraq or Afghanistan offer hopeful messages. That's not just because of the depressing realities of these quagmires but also because most of the U.S. films deal in oversimplified political themes or the horrific consequences of war, both during and afterward. However, this richly rewarding little documentary follows the lives of three senior citizens who have found purpose through their round-the-clock greetings of soldiers rotating through Bangor International Airport in Maine.

No matter what time the plane arrives, Bill Knight, Joan Gaudet and Jerry Mundy are there to offer a kind word, cell phone, or welcoming handshake and hug. Filmmakers Aaron Gaudet (the son of one subject) and Gita Pullapilly wisely make the film more about the realities of old age and self-sacrifice than politics. The interviews and editing are solid. We follow these memorable individuals through their daily routines, including dizzying pill regimens, doctor visits, shopping, dog caring and church.

This produces fully realized, humane portraits that remind us that the elderly deserve far greater respect for their accumulated wisdom than our culture typically affords them. These selfless individuals live according to time-tested principles and to simply make it through another day.

Be forewarned, though, you may need tissues: When the widower Knight says in a quivering voice, “I have nothing left to live for but what I do for other people” — it's hard not to tear up with him, until you remember these kinds of people are everywhere and how they face loneliness and death is a testament to us all.

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