Heaven & Earth details the seldom talked about Vietnamese perspective of the Vietnam war. After closely following the war in Platoon and its life changing aftermath in Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven & Earth was the final piece of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam war trilogy. Although it’s not as acclaimed or talked about half as much as the first two. I guarantee I’d probably never have seen it if not for the trilogy.
Heaven & Earth is based on Le Ly Hayslip’s personal experience during the Vietnam war. Painting a picture of how much Vietnamese villagers dealt with their place in the middle of conflict. Even dealing with the brutality of the Viet Cong before Americans even entered the war. The late Hiep Thi Le was chosen among many Vietnamese actresses. Although she had no acting experience, she’s natural enough to carry the film as Le Ly. Hiep’s performance, Stone’s filming techniques (especially in the gorgeous Vietnam fields), and less traumatizing aspects of the war itself are about all I got out of Heaven & Earth.
Le Ly’s narration dominates too much of the film. To the point important details of her life don’t have time to set in. Same with the out of place black & white flashbacks. Le Ly goes through a lot of personal trauma before meeting her American soldier husband. Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t appear until about an hour in. Le Ly becomes more Americanized, but everyone in Vietnam speaks English, so it’s not a big change. It’s depressing, but most of her American life was changed to increase tragedy. Heaven & Earth is a good perspective change that should’ve had a better presentation.