‘This Is Not a War Story’ is a narrative feature that follows a group of veterans who make art as a way of finding purpose, dealing with PTSD and re-entering society.
Isabelle and Will (Sam Adegoke) who are both veterans meet and help each other through a dark time in their lives. As they create art they find ways to shed the weight serving in the military had put on their otherwise normal lives.
To create art, the veterans snip and shred their old military uniforms, pulverize them into a pulp which they turn into paper or canvas on which they make paintings, abstract artworks or write down poetry or journals. The entire process is beautiful to see. You can’t help but notice how symbolic this may be for these veterans, shedding their old skin and turning into something.
From the beginning, the first few minutes of the film feel as though this is a documentary film. It takes a moment for the drama to settle in on you. But there are still several other scenes that come off as so organic and genuine that your mind is left wondering again if this is narrative fiction or a documentary.
The majority of the scenes are just simple conversations amongst veterans. These conversations, no matter how simple they seem are heavily loaded with thought-provoking statements that keep you well informed about the struggles of these veterans. They talk about their lives during deployments in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Their regrets lives lost, as well as how everything seemed to have changed for then after they had returned.
The acting is very impressive in his film. All the talents appear natural and very believable making this film more endearing. The dialogue between the characters is flawlessly delivered and sinks right in if you are paying enough attention. Even the supporting actors are flawless. Almost as though they aren’t acting. And it turns out that they are mostly real-life veterans going about their typical day to day creating art that brings them peace.
These veterans are sometimes treated as heroes but rarely do they feel like they are. Suffering in silence, they are sometimes forced to move away from society and end up indulging in all forms of self-harm. This film finds a way to show that not all hope is lost and that things can certainly get better for them.
The film is written and directed by Talia Lugacy who also stars as Isabelle. She embodies the character very well. Her mental struggles are very well portrayed and very evident in all her scenes. Even when she cracks a smile it appears through and through as a depiction of smiling through the pain. You can’t help but share in her pain.
As she battles with her anxieties and depression. Looking for a reason to stay alive. The story however leads us on to expect some romance or affection between Isabelle and Will. But that doesn’t materialize. The thought of it alone somehow does keep you more interested in them both right through to the end.
The camera work, editing and directing all add up to the film’s documentary feel. Everything feels organic, slow and laid back but manages to still remain intense. It is also beautiful how parts of the story are told with silence, beautiful music and carefully composed shots that sought to remind you to appreciate the beauty of life and the need for mental peace. For all of that, I would rate this 7/10.
Certainly, this is not a war story at all. But it is about the battle for mental peace. Its power lies in how it is able to bring to the fore the struggles that veterans go through trying to settle back into society after seeing so much war and pain. Both Will and Isabelle are broken in ways they themselves do not fully understand. Their wounds cut deeper than just the flesh. It’s in their minds and on their souls and these scars make them want to let go of everything.
Do make some time to see it once it is digitally released and you would most certainly appreciate it.