In Our Name
by Warren Curry
The British film “In Our Name” tackles the subject of post-traumatic stress disorder from the perspective of a female soldier who returns from a tour of duty in Iraq and attempts to assimilate back into the world she once knew. The movie starts off promisingly, director Brian Welsh aiming toward a Ken Loach style of realism, but his script eventually veers off course, resulting in a film that sounds better on paper than it plays on screen.
Joanne Frogatt stars as Suzy Jackson, a wife and mother, who’s all smiles while waiting on a train to return home with a group of fellow British soldiers. She’s become especially close to Paul (Andrew Knott), though their friendship is essentially put on hold while Suzy returns to her relationship with husband Mark (Mel Raido) and daughter Cass (Chloe Jayne Wilkinson). Mark is also a soldier who spent time in Iraq prior to Suzy, and he becomes impatient when his wife has difficulty rekindling the romance in their marriage. To make matters worse, Suzy finds her daughter has grown cold and distant.
In a revealing, though fairly implausible scene, Suzy visits the elementary school class her sister teaches and confesses her feelings of guilt over the death of an Iraqi girl. Starting with this scene, the film gradually begins to feel less organic and more contrived. Welsh lines up a succession of scenarios that serve the purpose of plotting, but compromise the sense of realism. Worse, he squanders the opportunity to thoroughly flesh out the characters.
And that qualifies as a significant lost opportunity when you consider how interesting Mark, Suzy’s shunned husband, could be. Instead, Welsh turns the character’s understandable frustration into blind rage, which is first directed at Paul and later a Pakistani cab driver. Ultimately, Mark comes across like a born sociopath rather than a once stable man thrown frighteningly off balance by his time at war. At first, it also seems Paul will develop into a substantial character, but he plays a smaller role in the film than it feels he should.
Joanne Frogatt — who reminds me a bit of Toni Collette — is convincing in the lead role as a woman succumbing to grief and paranoia, becoming excessively protective of her daughter in the process. As the film progresses, Welsh makes her mental/emotional disintegration too obvious — Suzy’s a conflicted character though not necessarily a complex one. There is a feeling of familiarity to the characters and the story, but in the film’s defense, what it lacks in originality it partially compensates for with sincerity.
“In Our Name” has the potential to be a powerful, riveting movie, but Welsh, unfortunately, isn’t able to sustain the absorbing, authentic atmosphere he creates early on. Yet it’s not a film to just be dismissed, and if Welsh, the writer, invests more in developing his characters, there’s a good chance his next effort will be a memorable one. “In Our Name” falls short of that mark.
In Our Name (UK/2010)
Director: Brian Welsh
Cast: Joanne Froggatt, Andrew Knott, Mel Raido, Chloe Jayne Wilkinson
Not Rated, 90 minutes
(Part of Emerging Films “From Britain With Love” series. For screening information visit: http://www.frombritainwithlove.org/venues/screening-schedule/)