(2018) (Justin Bruening, Sarah Drew) (PG-13)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Drama: An Army chaplain and his family must contend with him being deployed overseas and then returning and suffering from PTSD.
- It's 2007 and Army chaplain Darren Turner (JUSTIN BRUENING), his wife, Heather (SARAH DREW), and their kids have just moved into a neighborhood near Fort Stewart and directly across the street from Major Michael Lewis (JASON GEORGE) whose relationship with his wife, Tonya (TIA MOWRY), and girls hasn't been the same since his tours of duty in Iraq. Darren tries to help the troubled soldier, but Michael wants none of that and warns him to leave his heart at home, what with his first year-plus tour coming up.
Arriving at a U.S. base in Iraq, Darren meets Lt. Col. Jacobson (ERIC CLOSE) who's in command, as well as Shonda Peterson (SKYE P. MARSHALL) who will serve as Darren's assistant and bodyguard of sorts when they're off the base. He also meets Lance Bradley (TANNER STINE) whose wife back home, Amanda (MADELINE CARROLL), is expecting their second child.
When things go bad off-site, Lance questions Darren "peddling" a God who allowed a number of people -- including two soldiers and a young civilian girl -- to be killed during an insurgent attack. Darren does his best to explain things, all while trying to help Michael deal with his issues and Shonda be a better mom to her young son back home.
But what Darren experiences and witness while overseas begins to put a strain on his and Heather's marriage, what with her holding down the fort back home -- and comforting fellow spouses when they receive bad news -- and him not being able to tell her what he's been going through. That comes to a head when he returns home a completely changed man, what with PTSD severely affecting him and his family. All of which results in Chaplain Rodgers (MICHAEL O'NEILL) stepping in to try to save him and his family from the lasting aftereffects of seeing horrible things and believing that God has abandoned him.
- OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
- It's been a long time in the making, but most people are finally taking mental health seriously. From those who experience or witness horrific things firsthand (through the likes of crime, natural disasters, military service and so on) to others who experience head trauma (such as athletes) and others who have related issues for a wide variety of other reasons, their often every day resultant pain is finally being addressed.
But it wasn't always this way where women with such issues were dismissed on a gender basis of being weak, while men were supposed to just buck up, put the trauma in the rearview mirror and drive forward without ever looking back or talking about it.
That was especially true for those who served their country and often witnessed things no human ever should. And not only did that cause them collateral damage in terms of mental health, but it also affected their loved ones back home, both while they were away in service and once they returned home, often changed to one degree or another.
One such person was my college roommate's father. He was a Navy chaplain who served during Vietnam and saw more young men die than one can imagine. His PTSD while still doing the work of God (where he'd imagine seeing body bags lining the aisles of his church) eventually led to his early death.
I met him a number of times and still can hear his prominent baritone voice and feel his larger than life persona. Little did I know of the torment he had lurking within him, and always wondered since his passing if or how what he experienced in country and then afterward affected his view of God because, really, how could it not?
All of which brings us to this week's release of "Indivisible." It's the tale of a similar, real-life chaplain, Darren Turner (played by Justin Bruening), who gets shipped off to Iraq and witnesses his fair share of similar horrors while trying to help the needs of the soldiers (played by the likes of Jason George and Tanner Stine) he was stationed with. All while his wife (Sarah Drew) tried to hold down the fort back home and comfort the fellow spouses (most notably those played by Tia Mowry and Madeline Carroll) and family members when bad news would inevitably make its way there.
And as predicted by one of those soldiers, things aren't the same when he returns home and the PTSD takes hold and Darren's relationship with his wife and kids takes the impact. And his faith in God continues to erode to the point that he questions having committed so much of his life to that calling that's now seemingly let him down.
Considering the film comes from the two studios behind most faith-based releases of recent, there's little doubt things will resolve themselves before the running time of just short of two hours is up. And, at least according to the "whatever happened to" closing text comments, they did in real life as Darren and Heather now help others who are going through similar hardships as they did.
All of which is fine and dandy but in terms of cinematic storytelling, the solution comes too easy and with the usual platitudes of you just have to have faith and that it wasn't God who disappointed you and let you down, but instead your view of what you believed God should have done.
Maybe it's because it happens too quickly and easily that it feels disingenuous, but a particularly glaring point is when one wife states that if it hadn't been for a mortar attack that took her husband's leg, he might not have come around to being a better husband and father. She adds that if that doesn't prove God is good, she doesn't know what is.
I'm sorry, but wouldn't there be a less severe divine intervention way to achieve that, not to mention saying that right next to a wife whose husband died moments before that attack via an IED. Had that now widowed mother of two young children called her out on such a blind faith statement that might have been one thing, but she goes along with the story because, well, that's what these sorts of films want you to believe.
All of which is a shame as much of the rest of the film -- from writer/director David G. Evans and co-writers Cheryl McKay Price and Peter White -- is actually pretty decent. That is, when one discounts the extremely disjointed and rushed opening (with little context to what we're seeing) and a number of scenes that begin and conclude at what appear to be the wrong moments.
And there are two sequences (both intercutting what's simultaneously happening in country and back home) that feel a little contrived and too on point. But the performances are good across the board (and if there's ever going to be a movie about pro football quarterback Tom Brady, Bruening is the man for the job, what with being a close doppelganger). The chemistry between the characters feels authentic and some of the emotional moments hit home quite hard. Tech credits are solid as well.
I like films that question God's plan or even His existence in the face of horrific events and their long-lasting mental health impacts on people and their loved ones. But I also have a distaste for those that resolve such important, real-life issues with far too easy and predictable "preach to the choir" platitudes about just having to possess faith and that God's not wrong, but instead you are in your "faulty" belief in how He should act. Good until the dramatically too easy and predictable end, "Indivisible" rates as a 6 out of 10.
Reviewed October 22, 2018 / Posted October 26, 2018
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