“Blood Stripe” is an ambitious drama about an unnamed female Marine veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who is unable to adjust back into her civilian life due to the crippling effects of PTSD.
Directed by Remy Auberjonois, the film begins with a female Marine (Kate Nowlin), who is later referred to as “Sarge” in the film, returning home to Minnesota from what seems to be her last tour in the Middle East. She receives a lukewarm welcome back from her husband and any feeling of normalcy is quickly diminished when being physically intimate with her husband makes her physically ill. This is soon followed by insomnia, alcoholism, and working impulsively. After a hug at her welcome home party causes her to react violently, she abruptly leaves her home and drives hours away to an old summer camp where she used to go as a child. While this seems to put her at a sense of ease, this tranquility is short-lived.
This film’s powerful narrative explores the very contemporary difficulties faced by veterans of the War on Terror. Considering 11-20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan military personnel suffer from PTSD, deployed veterans have a 41 percent higher suicide risk compared to the general US population. It is also heavily implied that Sarge also may have experienced sexual assault, which is something 5 percent of active duty female soldiers have faced.
Even other issues like the fact that Sarge has to mention to her husband that there is a several-month long wait at the VA, when he suggest that she go there to get help after she attacked a party guest, it addresses the struggles that soldiers with PTSA face once they are home. Personally, being the daughter of a veteran and having grown up in a military community, it was great to see a film that tackled this issues in a very realistic way and vulnerable way.
The film itself is fantastic. It’s a powerful slow-burner that just lets the viewer watch Sarge unravel to the point where she completely breaks. It was spellbinding watching Sarge steadily loses her sense of what is reality and what’s in her head to a point where me as a viewer couldn’t figure out which is which either. The thrill of the film is largely due to by the impressive acting of Nowlin who fits so perfectly for the role that Sarge felt like a living, breathing person instead of just a caricature in a movie. Honestly, this is Oscar-worthy acting and if she were more famous, she would get a nomination in a heartbeat.
There are few films where I am completely 100-percent invested and engaged with the film from beginning to end. While I don’t expect there to be a sequel, I’m definitely looking forward to more work from Remy Auberjonois in the future. If you’re looking for a great film that you can completely immerse yourself in, this is the film to watch.
You can catch “Blood Stripe” at Austin Film Festival Monday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. – 8:52 p.m. at Galaxy Highland 8 presented by Dove Chocolate.