Some Wars You Take With You: In Our Name

Some Wars You Take With You: In Our Name

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Artificial Eye 

Release date: April 25th 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 90 mins

Director: Brian Welsh

Cast: Bill Fellows, Joanne Froggatt, John Henshaw, Drew Horsley, Andrew Knott, Janine Leigh, Mel Raido, Chloe Jayne Wilkinson, Steve Wraith, Martyn Grahame

I started to watch In Our Name cautiously with great scepticism. The official poster and trailer gave me the impression of a film cherry picking a single incident in the war in Iraq which then somehow morphs into anti-war and anti-military propaganda.

While British director Brian Welsh’s debut film very ambitiously tackles issues beyond the characters’ and their immediate surroundings, none of those issues are war itself.

In Our Name

The story revolves around Suzy (Joanne Froggatt), returning from a tour in Iraq trying to adjust to civilian life. On the surface all is great: family and friends receive her as a hero, she aims for a promotion in the army but it soon becomes clear her dysfunctional marriage and a series of unsuccessful attempts to reconnect with her daughter will worsen an already a severe case of post traumatic stress disorder.

Suzy’s husband Mark (Mel Raido), a former soldier himself having served in Afghanistan, is not at all shaken by his memories of war. His favourite photos from the service reveal him to be an insensitive sadist who is actually fond of the idea of murdering people without consequences.

In Our Name

The fundamental problem in Suzy’s deteriorating condition throughout the film is that her husband is a psychopath who is completely unable to relate to how a mentally healthy person experiences war. To make things worse, Suzy has the prospect of a successful career in the military, which threatens Mark’s fragile manhood. He is insecure, jealous and very aggressive; isolating Suzy and making it impossible for her to come to terms with a haunting memory.

Not being an expert in anxiety disorders, I did some research and the film seems to be as accurate as it can be. Arousal, anger and hypervigilance are the textbook symptoms of PTSD and they all emerge subtly in Suzy’s behaviour.

In Our Name

Iraq war veteran James Blake Miller, who was immortalised by photographer Lois Sinco with an image taken soon after the second battle of Fallujah, also dealt with post traumatic stress disorder upon returning to the United States. A key scene in In Our Name mirrors a frantic Miller pointing a shotgun at his wife, unable to recognise her for a few seconds.

I found the film’s approach to a soldier’s military experience refreshing and honest. I couldn’t help thinking that in ideal circumstances of a loving marriage, Suzy would be able to deal with her haunting memories from the service. Her problem is not the war, where people generally expect to see horrible things in the first place, but a relationship that should at least be adequately normal. The Iraq war serves merely as the background for her anxiety disorder, but the film itself is a very effective piece in the domain of social realism.

In Our Name

In Our Name has practically no politically motivated message; it is a very matter-of-fact story of a bad marriage more that anything else.

As the military is more unisex than ever before, the choice of a female protagonist is timely. The incident that happened to Suzy in Iraq is actually a true story, but in real life it happened to a male soldier. Welsh’s decision to fictionalise it and switch the gender made the movie more socially relevant.

I’m looking forward to seeing Joanne Froggatt in many more films in the future, her performance as Suzy is genuinely visceral. As the film progresses, her voice becomes shaky and she seems to be on the verge of crying in every scene. Suzy wants to say something but nobody is listening.

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