Lisa Schwarzbaum
July 16, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Regret to Inform

Current Status
In Season
Barbara Sonnenborn
Documentary, War, Historical

We gave it a B+

Barbara Sonnenborn was 24 in 1968 when her first husband, Jeff Gurvitz, was killed in combat in Vietnam. Intercutting her pilgrimage to the site of his death some two decades later with testimony from other American and Vietnamese widows of that complex, utterly Pyrrhic conflict, Sonnenborn makes a sweeping, simple, irrefutable documentary about the ineffable tragedy of war anytime, anyplace. In the case of Regret to Inform, it’s a struggle set in a lush, green corner of Southeast Asia, photographed misty and gentle in contemporary repose. (Contrast this ”feminine,” left-leaning documentary with the ”masculine,” right-leaning Return With Honor for an efficient, yin-yangish, postmodern Vietnam education.) The director was fortunate to find such eloquent women to animate what is essentially a generic pacifist lament. Her film, which was nominated for a 1998 Academy Award, is also greatly enhanced by Todd Boekelheide’s wafting East-meets-West, bridge-to-peace score. B+

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