Written and Directed by
Graham Robson, Rachel Turner, Samuel Corey James Smith and Terrence Betts
"Per Mare, Per Terram" Review
Per Mare, Per Terram is the story of Nathan Miller, a Royal Marine whose return home is marred by his own difficulty adjusting to "normal" once again along with the violent memories of the death of his best friend while on tour.
While it could be tempting to dismiss Per Mare, Per Terram as just another Iraq war film (albeit a shorter one), to do so would be a grave mistake. Per Mare, Per Terram isn't so much about the war itself as it is about the moments that comprise daily life upon a soldier's return. Miller, the returning soldier memorably portrayed by actor and Iraq War vet Graham Robson, is a seemingly quiet and inward young man who can't seem to quiet the loud voices of war even when dealing with his beautiful wife Anna (Rachel Turner) or his son (Samuel Corey James Smith). It is his son's simple playing with toy soldiers that sends him off to a boiling point, a boiling point that the film points out in the closing credits is all too common for those who return from war.
Writer/Director Jordan Barrett, a student at U.K.'s Staffordshire University, has crafted a simple yet emotionally involving 11-minute short film that captures, crisply and concisely, the power of the little moments in the lives of our returning soldiers. Barrett approaches the film without necessarily taking sides or, instead, one should say he clearly takes the side of those whose lives are permanently altered in ways big and small by the impact of war.
Of course, it helps that Barrett's ensemble cast is strong across the board with Robson's quiet strength and inner turmoil building a quiet anxiety for the viewer as one wonders just when and how he will boil over. So, too, Rachel Turner shines as the equally struggling spouse whose efforts to understand are rebuffed in not so subtle ways.
While one can certainly argue that Per Mare, Per Terram tries to cover an awful lot of ground in an incredibly short amount of time, with the exception of Nathan's initial "You don't understand" response the dialogue feels natural and authentic throughout. Andrew Wilkinson's camera work is rock solid, projecting both the intimacy of family life along with the heartbreaking moments of isolation that Nathan endures. Jonathan Armandary's original score companions the film's emotional peaks and valleys quite nicely, though on a couple of occasions it has an almost "Taps" like quality about it that is just a touch off-putting given Nathan's current struggles.
Filmed over the course of four days, this low-budget short from up-and-coming U.K. writer/director Jordan Barrett displays a promising grasp of authentic dialogue, emotional pacing and an insightful eye for piecing it all together with convincing camera work. Per Marre, Per Terram is just beginning its festival run and will undoubtedly be tweaked a touch along the way. Among a slew of Iraq and war-themed films that have attempted to catch the attention of the moviegoing public in recent years, only The Hurt Locker has genuinely succeeded. While this film isn't The Hurt Locker, it works because just like that Oscar-winning film it focuses on the people rather than the politics.