FRAY, by Geoff Ryan, is the most powerful and enlightening film I have seen yet on PTSD in war veterans today. Before attending a screening at the 2012 Arizona International Film Festival, I viewed the trailer which made me think the film was going to be like other veterans returning home with PTSD, talky, possibly preachy. But I was very surprised to see a film that gave the audience a voyeuristic view of the everyday life of a veteran and his experience of PTSD.
I have never really understood how PTSD manifests until seeing this film. In the very beginning we see Justin (excellently played by Bryan Kaplan), a US Marine who recently returned to Oregon from his most recent tour of duty. As he's driving on a country road deep in the forest, he gets a flashback of combat trauma. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and I got a deep basic 101 in PTSD just from this first scene.
The style of the film was reminiscent of cinema verite, and was frequently beautifully cinematic, thanks to Jarin Blaschke. Justin often sought solace and security by sleeping in his truck deep in the Oregonian forests. The shots of the forest were awesome for a digital film and gave a powerful background for Justin's internal struggle with PTSD. After the screening some audience members expressed how their loved ones who were veterans had the same behavior of living out in the forest when they were unable to cope with regular life.
When we see scenes of Justin in his regular life, trying to get a job to pay the bills, sleeping in an apartment with paper-thin walls, and reacting to people who want to help and have close relationships with him, we see his emotional scars from war. He expresses intense frustration, deep shame and extreme unworthiness. The origin of these symptoms is not well-explained which I think is commendable in the film's writing. The film just shows what is. I could speculate on where Justin's shame comes from; but I'll save that for another blog.
I highly recommend this film as required viewing for all Americans and especially those contemplating joining the war or encouraging others to go to war. At the time of this writing, the film is not yet available in theaters or DVD yet, but one can email the filmmakers through their website to see it online or to get a copy.
Posted by Jean Jessup. Posted In : Drama