(director/writer: Kyle Haussmann Stokes; screenwriter: A.J. Bermudez, story by Cherish Chen & Stokes; cinematographer: Matt Sakatani Roe; editor: Ali Greer; music: Dan Romer; cast: Sonequa Martin-Green (Merit), Natalie Morales (Zoe), Ed Harris (Dale), Morgan Freeman (Dr. Cole), Gloria Reuben (Kris), Utkarsh Ambudkar (Alex); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mike Field, Kyle Haussmann Stokes, Paul Scanlan, Terri Lubaroff, Richard Silverman, Danny Nolan, Robert Pascall Jr., Ray Maiello; ReCre8 Entertainment; 2024)

“Looks back on the impact of the war on the soldiers, their families and the need for ensuring the vets get mental health treatment.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dark comedy/buddy drama on the trauma of war for military people, the need for friendship in coping with hard times, and dealing with a divided family.

It’s directed with vigor by first timer Kyle Haussmann Stokes, who served as a decorated Army Airborne Staff Sergeant during the Afghanistan War. Stokes co-wrote it with A.J. Bermudez. 

The film opens in Afghanistan in 2016. Merit (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Zoe (Natalie Morales) are close friends, of color, stationed in the war zone, in the same platoon, and are having fun during a break horsing around to relieve the wartime tension.

Back in the present, Zoe is dead and Merit is wrestling with PTSD, and always thinking of her lost friend. Merit’s in group therapy. She also battles with her mom (Gloria Reuben) over how to deal with her estranged ailing grandfather (Ed Harris), and decides to move in to help him. Their scenes together were the most genuine.

Without being preachy, the film looks back on the impact of the war on the soldiers, their families, and on the need for ensuring the vets get mental health treatment.

The Sergeant was the right person to tell the story.

It played at SXSW.

REVIEWED ON 5/13/2024  GRADE: B-