Veterans returning home carrying the mental and emotional scars of war has been explored in film many times throughout the years.
But never before has it felt as raw and as real as it does in “This Is Not a War Story.”
There’s not much of a plot to speak of, instead the focus of the film is on a group of veterans from the wars in Vietnam through Iraq involved in a unique art project in New York City.
The veterans shred and tear their old military uniforms and reduce them to pulp that they then turn into paper. The paper is then used by the veterans to create various forms of art that comment on their combat experiences.
Writer, director and star Talia Lugacy plays Isabelle, an Iraq War vet and newest member of the group. Isabelle is lost and broken and struggling to reacclimate to civilian life.
Isabelle finds herself drawn to Will (Sam Adegoke) a fellow veteran and counselor who is dealing with his own trauma after the suicide of a vet he was counseling.
The rest of the supporting cast is made up of real Vietnam and Iraq War veterans. Lugacy gives the film a loose, hand-held, documentary style and most of the dialogue comes in form of casual conversation in the studio during the paper or art-making process.
There’s a lot of anger and bitterness among the vets, not only at the trauma they endured in combat, but at the wars they consider to be unjust.
This is rough stuff and Lugacy plays it all with a very heavy hand, to the point that the despair and frustration almost drips from the screen.
But it’s the care Lugacy shows for these characters, and the care they show each other that lets some rays of hope shine in through all of the bleakness.
“This Is Not a War Story” zeroes in on the veterans’ mental and emotional pain, but never feels exploitative as each of these broken characters retain their dignity and humanity.
It’s not always easy to watch, but “This Is Not a War Story” gives a platform for voices that definitely need to be heard.
“This Is Not a War Story” is not rated but contains adult language, mature themes and some drug use.