Friday 22 April 2011

On DVD: "In Our Name"

In Our Name, an intense and quietly impressive debut from National Film and Television School graduate Brian Welsh, centres on Suzy (Joanne Froggatt), a professional soldier who's returned to her native Newcastle following a tour of duty in Iraq. Despite a warm welcome from family and friends, she soon finds herself subject to sleepless nights and flashbacks; not only this, but she's obliged to make such an effort to reconnect with her young daughter that she starts to drifts apart from her husband (Mel Raido), himself an ex-squaddie, whose growing sexual frustration warps into a festering suspicion of what exactly went on over there. Before long, Suzy's fitting their once-happy home with new locks and razor wire, plunging herself back into the state of siege to which she's become all too regrettably accustomed.

Welsh follows in the humanist tradition of Paul Greengrass's Film on Four breakthrough Resurrected, which dramatised the trauma suffered by a soldier (David Thewlis) both during and on his return from the Falklands conflict. Both of In Our Name's central characters are damaged at some level: Raido's jealous rages appear a symptom of the same insecurity that compels Suzy to keep a machete within easy reach. Froggatt - a graduate of the Coronation Street academy, raised in the bootcamps of prime-time drama - convincingly inhabits the role of a woman drilled to be forever on the defensive, turning every task (picking up and dropping off her daughter, answering the door, fleeing her hubby) into a mission of sorts. (Welsh acknowledges as much by pumping up the noise of passing helicopters in the sound mix; we soon grasp Suzy's brought not only a certain skillset, but a certain set of concerns back with her.)

From an abortive presentation Suzy gives to her sister's primary school class - she breaks down at the memory of a dead Iraqi girl her own daughter's age - one can't help but arrive at the conclusion that however rigorously we train or equip our troops, many of them simply don't have the language - the mental tools - to satisfactorily process what they've been through; and from the sister's pat and rather callous reaction, that we civilians struggle to comprehend what it is these soldiers do for us, the precise nature of the hits they take for the team. Familiar TV faces and the close, contained focus - the attempt, at one point, to literally squeeze some editorial into the back of a cab - gives it the air of a superior telefilm, but the limited means presently available to Welsh are at least being used to tackle something pertinent, as one tour of duty shades into the next: the climate of unarticulated (some might say unspeakable) fear in which our circumstances and commanding officers have obliged us to live.

In Our Name is available on DVD from Monday.

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