The War and Peace of Tim O’Brien Image

In the midst of writing his newest novel, Dad’s Maybe Book, acclaimed author Tim O’Brien sits down with writer/director Aaron Matthews to talk about his writing process and his views on the world. The War and Peace of Tim O’Brien shows every step in the writer’s journey to finish one last novel, his goodbye to fans that he’s putting everything into. Fighting through health conditions and familial responsibilities, Tim O’Brien gives his parting gift to his family and the world as his age starts to catch up with him.

The War and Peace of Tim O’Brien introduces the writer on a pedestal. Serving in Vietnam in 1969, earning the Purple Heart, and winning a National Book Award, O’Brien has quite the resume, and this is immediately focused on. Still, though, as he begins to write this last novel, his simple life with his wife Meredith, and two kids, Timmy and Tad, starts to fracture when the pressures of writing consume him.

O’Brien’s entire journey consists mainly of him working for days on end to finish as much work as possible. Outside of his writing schedule, O’Brien is shown to partake in public speaking and magic shows. The former of the two allows for him to express his opinions on war and how disappointed he is in how the world keeps finding new reasons to send people far away from their homes to kill each other.

“…acclaimed author Tim O’Brien sits down…to talk about his writing process

His speeches and interviews, both from the past and present, display that O’Brien has kept a strong set of principles, even when he was deployed in Vietnam. His magic shows offer a different kind of release for O’Brien as he displays his talents in card tricks and other illusions. This gives him a way to have fun with his work, but it doesn’t stop him from practicing tirelessly on his sleight of hand.

What Mathews does best in The War and Peace of Tim O’Brien is bluntly show the reality of writing and what positive and negative effects it can have on someone. On the one hand, the author is able to find a platform for him to express himself, but on the other hand, his relationship with his family starts to become strained with the weight of O’Brien giving his last piece of work to the world. It’s a double-edged sword that O’Brien must contend with to finish his book.

It may not be perfect from a technical level, but the documentary still delivers on many fronts. Tim O’Brien has so much to say on war, aging, and life in general, and the film engrossingly encapsulates much of his views and more. The additions of Alex Mitchell’s score and the restrained use of archive footage further help flesh out O’Brien’s life. It’s a huge task to cover a man’s entire journey to finish one piece of work, and The War and Peace of Tim O’Brien does an adequate job of giving an objective eye into Tim O’Brien’s life.

The War and Peace of Tim O'Brien (2020)

Directed and Written: Aaron Mathews

Starring: Tim O’Brien, Meredith O’Brien, Timmy O’Brien, Tad O’Brien, etc.

Movie score: 5/10

The War and Peace of Tim O'Brien Image

"…delivers on many fronts."

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