Sundance Review: "The Dry Land"


The Iraq war has given the film industry plenty of cinematic fodder, mostly forgettable, but the emotional traumas faced by returning soldiers is relatively uncharted in this particular context until now. There's Jim Sheridan's "Brothers", but offering a more realistic and emotionally grounded perspective is "The Dry Land", a superbly crafted film from first time feature director Ryan Piers Williams.


The film's central character is James (an impressive Ryan O'Nan) who returns from Iraq to try and fit back into his small-town life in Texas. His beautiful wife (America Ferrera), his mother (Melissa Leo), and his friend (Jason Ritter) try to provide support, without ever realising or understanding the pain and suffering he feels since his tour of duty ended.


Feeling isolated and subconsciously taking out unwanted emotional aggression on those closest to him, especially his wife, James reconnects with an army buddy (Wilmer Valderrama) who provides him with compassion and camaraderie during his battle to process his experiences in Iraq. But their reunion also exposes the different ways that war affects people - at least on the surface, and this emotional undercurrent becomes the centrepiece of this film.


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