Chicago International Film Festival 2011
On the Bridge Directed by: Oliver Morel Cast: Iraq & Afghanistan War Veterans Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins Rating: NR Release Date: TBD
PLOT: A heartbreaking documentary that follows the lives of returning US war veterans as they struggle with PTSD and returning to civilian life.
WHO'S IT FOR? It's difficult to recommend this to anyone because it is such a difficult subject, but I can honestly say that I recommend everyone go see this in an effort to educate themselves on PTSD and the personal struggles of veterans.
We live in a culture where there’s not much room for moral gray area. There’s a very real concept of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” that is alive in post-9/11 America. One of the most compelling aspects of On the Bridge is that it plays with this idea, it even challenges it, by giving a glimpse into the lives of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the Bridge forces it viewers into an uncomfortable examination of the lives of the brave and the bold that fight our battles so we don’t have to. Its emphasis on both military life abroad and adjusting to civilian life at home is at times overly personal, but rightfully so. These are the stories nobody wants to hear, no matter how loudly our veterans want to scream them.
That, to me, was the most interesting element of this emotional documentary. The willingness of former soldiers to tell their stories, the overwhelming need to be heard was something that is so frequently ignored in traditional stories about service members. These are people who are broken because of what they’ve seen and what they’ve experienced before returning home to a country that celebrates them for these atrocities. I don’t say this as someone who opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I say this as someone who has heard it from the very mouths of military personnel.
On the Bridge gave me a much deeper appreciation for a community that, to be honest, I didn’t really know existed.On the Bridge gives a voice to victims of PTSD, but more importantly, it allows the voice of service members who actively oppose these causes to be heard. It is a deeply intimate portrait of these veterans that deserves recognition if for no other reason than its attention to a cause that many are too afraid to broach.
The only difficulty that On the Bridge seems to have is in its scope. The documentary sometimes tries too hard to cover a number of stories and it frequently becomes emotionally overwhelming and borderline suffocating. While this is certainly effective, it forces some of these subjects to the sidelines. This isn’t really the fault of the filmmakers. In fact, it’s more of a sad statement on the abundance of veterans suffering from PTSD. Nevertheless, it would have been more emotionally resonant with fewer stories and a more direct approach. However, On the Bridge certainly deserves credit for its undertaking in telling an important and often overlooked effect of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10