Blood Stripe is a film co-written, and directed by Remy Auberjonois. Known for his roles on The English Teacher, Michael Clayton, Mad Men, and Weeds, Remy makes his directorial debut with Blood Stripe. While the pacing could be considered a little slow at times (during the middle it dragged on a bit and there were some scenes which I felt were a lot longer than they needed to be), Blood Stripe was enjoyable to watch and offered a heartbreaking look at the crippling effects of PTSD.
The film follows a PTSD-ridden soldier (Our Sergeant) struggling to cope with life back home after three tours with the Marines in Afghanistan. Does it sound like a trope we’ve seen a thousand times? Possiby. The soldier lashes out on their friends and family because they just cannot adjust to regular life after the war. However, Blood Stripe differs from the common formula we see in post-war movies: the main protagonist is a female. By shifting the point of view to one we’re not used to seeing, that of a woman still strong despite her flaws, the film offers an interesting commentary on coping and has the captivating cinematography to match.
One of the most jarring scenes comes towards the beginning of the film. Our Sergeant has been home for a few days and people are coming over for a small welcome back party. We watch her drink beer after beer, as she slowly gets overwhelmed with the crowd. The big awakening in the movie is when as an audience we realize that “hey, something’s wrong here” when one of the party guests approaches her from behind and she completely loses it. She goes “super soldier mode” on him. Using her skills in combat she attacks him and beats him against the refrigerator in front of her guests, leaving her husband and family to clean up the mess. This break down is one of many that we see, but is used as the catalyst for events later (her eventual break free from the monotony of her life). Part of what made this scene so unnerving for me was that it was something that we almost never see in movies, the pure aggressiveness that women never display.
The protagonist’s journey was unsettling and unpredictable, which is something that we see every day in real life. Kate Nowlin does an amazing job making the Sergeant, who should be a hard, unreliable character, one that a lot can identify with. As an audience, you’re rooting for her and when she completely loses it you understand. At the end of the movie, we’re left with a person who has gone through quite a journey but still struggles and has a lot to learn as well. There could not be a better time for this film to be made.
In choosing to not name the main character, Blood Stripe generalizes the story and makes it even more real and relatable. Blood Stripe did a beautiful job displaying the raw realness of PTSD and illustrating the gripping reality that maybe it doesn’t always get better.