Written and Directed by Stacey Stone
Documentary Film Review by Chris Olson
A topic as emotionally harrowing and tragic as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is the perfect subject for an intense documentary film. The reason being that there are still so many unknowns about the affliction, and it's impact on individuals and society at large, that an in-depth scrutiny of the subject is the only way to inform audiences as much as possible, and, hopefully, enact some form of cultural intervention. Fortunately, filmmaker Stacey Stone delivers a documentary that is powerfully candid and insightful about PTSD and its victims.
Typically related to war veterans, living with trauma can actually affect many people in a variety of ways, and this is something which My Own War does exceptionally well, making it feel like a very personal experience had by a variety of people, not just military men. That being said, the film is largely made up of talking heads with a service background, offering a brilliant insight into the journey that veterans experience after serving, and how some of their more harrowing ordeals have damaged them physically, emotionally, and morally. Several physicians and doctors are also on hand to offer medical commentary on the nature of PTSD. One such discussion about the effect on a person's morality after suffering trauma was particularly fascinating.
Stone uses a variety of methods to create impact in the filmmaking, such as overlaying sequences of support groups with brutally honest revelations from interviewees to connect the damaging consequences of a world at war, or intense close ups of victims on the verge of tears in order to not shy away from the emotion of the scene. There is nothing hugely cinematic about My Own War as a documentary film, but to do anything extravagant or glossy would be obscene given the nature of the topic. Instead, Stone chooses to be heartfelt, honest, and grounded in order to bring the subject up for discussion in a way which is accessible yet moving.
The chapter approach to telling the story felt a little flimsy at times, and unnecessary. Essentially the turbulent journey that the interviewees discus felt raw, so much so that the titles announcing the chapters just felt at odds with the chaos. Like it was trying to organise the nightmare rather than let it play out with unrestrained brutality. However, some of the final sections are utterly captivating and enhanced by the small threads which tie them together, and I am not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears.
My Own War is as dignified a film as you can ask for on a subject as ambiguous and fluid as PTSD. Whilst fictional War Films often do credit to the characterisation surrounding the ailment, few are able to tackle the issue with such tenacity as this. The outcome is an incredibly poignant piece of filmmaking that deserves to be recognised as one of the foremost examinations of a global problem, that reaches hidden depths that uncover a troubling pandemic.
Watch the official Movie Trailer for My Own War below...