The Yellow Birds 

The plight of the psychologically damaged former soldier struggling to shoe-horn himself back into the quotidian of his former life first courted public awareness in 1946 with William Wyler's celebrated The Best Years Of Our Lives. The affliction again gained narrative traction some thirty years later during the Vietnam conflict in big-budget, star-driven films like Who'll Stop The Rain, The Deer Hunter and Coming Home, but it took the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the beginning of the millenium to finally put the tragedy of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as it came to be known) back on Hollywood's front burner with a steady stream of largely low-budget indie productions. The Yellow Birds is one of the better ones.

Adapted from Kevin Powers' debut novel by David Lowery and R.F.I. Porto, and directed by Alexandre Moors, the film stars Alden Ehrenreich and Tye Sheridan as Bartle and Murph, two callow young men from small town America who, after enlisting in the Army, soon find themselves  in Iraq, knee-deep in the aleatory chaos of frontline warfare. Following Murph's gruesome death, a profoundly shell-shocked Bartle returns home and promptly retreats into the inner recesses of an almost wordless, shiftless solitude that neither his nor Murph's mother (who painfully begs him for more details about her son's death) are able to penetrate. Juxtaposing close-ups of Ehrenreich's impassive, haunted face, with the rickety, fly-blown screen doors, unkempt store fronts and overgrown byways of an economically impoverished, semi-rural backwater, Moors' measured, minimalist often wordless mise-en-scene evokes a palpable air of melancholy, sadness and regret. Along with Ehrenreich, who will soon be seen as a young Han Solo, both Toni Collette and Jennifer Aniston have brief but telling cameos as the grieving mothers. Well worth a look.