DIFF Documentary Review: ‘Farmer/Veteran’ Provides An Intimate Look At The Growing Issue Of PTSD

Greetings again from the darkness. Alex Sutton served 3 tours of Iraq and is now considered fully disabled due to PTSD. He is the subject of this film from co-directors Alix Blair and Jeremy Lange, and we are privy to glimpses of his life over the span of a few years. Alex is trying to heal by working on a farm where he lives with his protective fiancé. It’s neither a glamorous nor productive life, but it presents the challenges faced by so many veterans.

Over the course of the film, we get a pretty good feel for the muddled perspective Alex lives with, due in part to a staggering number of prescribed drugs he ingests daily. Blending this diet of meds with his fascination and comfort with the arsenal of firearms he maintains, provides scenes like the one where he compares the hatching of a baby chick to the killing he did during the war – both providing God-like powers.

The film takes us through their daily lives on the farm (chickens, goats, a donkey, a horse, and a peacock), and then to their wedding day and the birth of children. Alex is a likable guy, but one who can never really focus for long periods or put a plan together to organize the farm activities. In fact, he seems closest to happy when firing shots from one of his weapons … even if for no apparent reason.

Our views change quickly during a reading of Alex’s medical records. Where we had previously accepted his account of the med-evac after injuries that “tore him apart”, we soon realize the PTSD has a deeper impact than the daily struggles on the farm. The closing credits detail the 400,000 cases of PTSD stemming from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s a reminder of the need for better care for this mental health challenge facing so many. A world of isolation is no solution. The filmmakers provide an intimate look at this growing issue, and it’s a reminder that the VA is ill-equipped in its present state. Kudos for excellent use of music throughout … especially the “Jubilee” song over the end credits.

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