Did you know that Curzon Cinemas has an on demand service? Well, Curzon Cinemas has an on demand service. I used it to watch Brain Welsh's In Our Name (2010), released last year its story begins as "Our Suzy the hard-arse soldier" returns from a seemingly successful hearts-and-minds tour of Basra to her home in Middlesbrough.
The dauntless task of playing Suzy, a character of fragile ways and tough means was given to Joanne Froggatt, an actress whose body holds these contrasts well. She is small limbed, bird like, a peaked nose, furtive eyes, but she moves with a brittle energy, she moves as though she is being thrown.
In a key scene where Suzy is discussing post-traumatic stress disorder, denying the extent of its effects on her, Froggatt does a very subtle thing, she breathes badly. A glut of feeling is trapped at the top of her chest, it is prominent but also hidden, her bosom heaves angrily, heavy and silent.
Suzy is perpetually tired because her mind runs, it races to the past, speeds through the present, and she labours to keep up with it. Suzy is so exhausted looking that while watching you may will her to sleep, you may need to yawn in the vain hope that expelling your tension will relieve some of hers.
In Our Name is concerned with what occurs in the mind as the result of war. Surroundings morph, gently, uneasily, water bends, air becomes a brick wall. Suzy is both detached from her existence and firmly embedded in it to the extent that it crushes her. She flashbacks to horrors of the past, she can't contain herself in the present, the harder she tries the more paranoid she becomes. To convey these feelings of slippage Welsh uses sound overbearingly, it crowds out thinking, drowns experiences in isolation, traps Suzy in her panic, locks the audience in too.
My favourite of moment in the film is when a friend visits and as Suzy reluctantly opens the door fireworks burst above his head. I can't tell if this is deliberate or a happy filming accident. I'm not sure if I think of it as dreamlike wonder breaking up Suzy's frustration, her friend is a saviour anointed by decorative lights. Or a mundane celebration, routine joy from the outside world that contributes to a difficult existence inside.
The film's aesthetic is steady, crisp and close, the wear and tear of Tyne and Wear (standing in for Middlesbrough) is captured faithfully. Scenes open scrolling past rows of homes, reminding me of the beginning of Billy Liar and how living spaces talk to you. Viewing houses from the outside lets you reflect on the smallness of human actuality, decaying buildings are wasted potential.
In Our Name is about the mess that war makes. War is a sledgehammer. It breaks what it touches, changes everything into something different, removed from what it was. Welsh dedicates the film to the 'thousands of servicemen and women who have been incarcerated in British prisons after attempting to return to civillian life'.
In Our Name is only Welsh's second film as director and writer, an audacious work of fiction based in stark modern fact. He is a contemporary British filmmaker with sense and sensitivity, we should be thankful for him and remain curious as to what he'll do next. We should throw money his way when he passes in the street so whatever it is doesn't find much difficulty in coming to fruition.