Directed by Alex Hardy Starring Shauna Macdonald, George Newton, Jamie Laird, Amy Roxburgh, & Katrina Ann Foster Short Film Review by Chris Olson
A brutally moving and psychologically affecting short film, Soldier Bee goes elbow deep into the harrowing suffering of someone with PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), exploring the incredibly difficult assimilation that some war veterans face, and the pathological violence that can become entrenched in their being. Jodie (Shauna Macdonald) is a former Captain who served in the Afghanistan conflict. After a terrible incident which left her body and mind scarred, Jodie finds it difficult to reconnect with her family, struggling sexually with her husband (Jamie Laird), as well feeling like she has missed important parts of her daughter Sophie's (Amy Roxburgh) upbringing. Finding solace on her own in a lonely hotel room, Jodie becomes obsessed with the pair across the hallway from her - a prostitute (Katrina Ann Foster) and an aggressive patron (George Newton). With such heavy themes, it was important that director Alex Hardy coped with the troubling elements of Jodie's psychotic state alongside the bubbling tension being built during the unfolding of the plot. This balancing act, it is safe to say, is handled with deft care and craftsmanship, creating a gripping thriller experience that audiences are unlikely to forget. The use of cross-cutting and multiple timelines dramatically enhanced the movie without overwhelming the viewer, showing Jodie’s homelife, war life, and the present. The characters in Soldier Bee are portrayed completely believably without succumbing to saccharine ideas of heroism or pity. Hardy heads a charge into a formidable and important story, tackling difficult notions about violence, sex, family, evil and hate with considerable filmmaking poise.
The central performance from Shauna Macdonald is one of the best in a short film this year. Equal parts engaging, sympathetic, troubling and more, the character is delivered like a symphony of sadness and rage, until her story/journey comes to a phenomenal culmination by the last act. Macdonald is heartfelt delivering the full range of emotional dialogue, as well as bold in her physical presence. During one scene where she engages with the inhabitants of the room opposite her, Macdonald goes through a multitude of complex behaviour which is completely engrossing to watch. She is then complemented by a more than capable cast of supporting players. George Newton is a dynamic on-screen presence, and special mention to young talent Amy Roxburgh as the daughter, who is terrific. This is a film that doesn’t really put a foot wrong. Other films have covered the topic of PTSD (Born on the Fourth of July, Less Loss, Brothers etc), and Soldier Bee stands shoulder to shoulder with those great movies, in terms of delivering a film which is powerful, intelligent, and crafted with the most delicate of care to do justice to the harrowing nature of PTSD.