In Our Name, Dir. Brian Welsh (2010)

Rating: 6/10

This highly-researched feature debut  from British director Brian Welsh examines the effects of post-traumatic stress on female soldier Suzy (Joanne Froggatt). When Suzy returns home to Newcastle to rejoin her husband Mark  (Mel Raido), also a soldier, and eight year-old daughter Cass (Chloe Jayne Wilkinson) after having served a tour of duty  in Iraq, she struggles to adjust to civilian life and her family notice how distant she is. This particularly frustrates Mark (an alpha-male if there ever was one) who begins to suspect that Suzy has cheated on him with Paul (Andrew Knott), a soldier in her company, when she refuses to have sex with him.

As the film progresses Suzy  starts to becomes increasingly paranoid at perceived dangers around her, and anyone hanging around her home becomes a threat.  She is also plagued with flashbacks  (shown in grainy out-of-focus sequences mirroring Suzy’s sense of dislocation) of an Iraqi girl she indirectly caused the death of, and she starts to associate Cass with the dead girl.  She eventually goes  to the lengths of stealing a gun from her barracks (an aspect of the story based on news reports of soldiers Welsh had read). After her husband gets into an racist argument with a Muslim taxi driver (who angers Mark by emphasising with the Taliban’s actions)  they get dog faeces shoved through their door and derogatory graffiti sprayed on  their home.  This triggers an alarming  series of events, and their house becomes a virtual war zone, with Suzy putting barb wire round their house. It culminates in the increasingly aggressive Mark  viciously attacking the taxi driver with some friends.  And when Suzy finds some horrifying photos of Mark on duty, it prompts Suzy to run away with Cass-taking her gun with her- to retreat into a forest, ultimately putting Cass into more potential danger.

Usually with films about soldier’s experiences, they focus on what they are like on duty, whether that be in the midst of battles, mucking about with fellow soldiers or dealing with the locals; and they are almost exclusively male. So to see a film that focuses solely on what it’s like after being on duty, and what that experience is like for a mother in a domestic setting is refreshing. (Not that there haven’t been good films that focus on a soldier’s post-traumatic experience, Taxi Driver and Regeneration come to mind, but these again focus on men without such close family ties). It also effectively brings light to the lack of support that soldiers can suffer after being on duty. Welsh’s direction and Sam Care’s cinematography also captures well how dangerous an urban environment can become as seen through Suzy’s paranoid mindset; with the camera focusing on run-down houses that looked like they’ve been bombed and threatening features like the broken glass on top of a wall.

Joanne Froggatt puts in a great committed performance too, which shows how hard it is for soldier’s to get rid of what Americans call their ‘war-heads’. As Suzy she is nervy, withdrawn and emotional, her body movements and facial expressions showing that she is on constant alert. This is shown from the start at her welcome party when a party popper makes her jump and wince as if a bomb had gone off. Chloe Jayne Wilkinson is perfect as the impressionable and sensitive Cass who realises straight away that something’s wrong with her mother, and who disturbingly play-acts being like a soldier herself. Mel Raido is suitably frightening, whilst remaining a caring father at the same time, but is the weakest most unbelievable character  (more on that later).

On the negative side the film was unremittingly bleak until the very end, and this could prove too heavy-going for some who like a bit of humour and lightness with their dramas. It was also sometimes hard to see why Suzy stayed such a long time with such a twisted and violent man as Mark (though this could be explained by their long absences away from each-other while on duty). Mark as a character is also drawn rather broadly and seems rather cartoonish in his angry macho posturing. Whilst the scene in which Suzy addresses a primary school classroom on her role as a soldier seemed contrived (what kind of teacher would subject young children to that anyway?), and only there as a plot device to cause Suzy’s breakdown. Nonetheless, the film takes a worthy subject and tells a story that should be told, even if it can be hard to watch.

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