Movie Review: ‘Blood Stripe’ Is One Of The Best Films Of The Year

Review by Mark Merrell

Blood Stripe Is By Far One Of The Best Films Of The Year.

“It’s not until we are completely lost and turned around, that we begin to find ourselves.”

She is a woman. A wife. A Sargent in the United States Marine Corpus, coming home after her third active tour in the Middle East. Known by many names, she goes by Our Sargent, or Lioness (Kate Nowlin, Young Adult, Outsiders, Ironside, The Narrows, The Adjustment Bureau, The Mighty Macs) finds herself whisked home. She seems fine as her sister-in-law, Barb (Ashlie Atkinson, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Inside Man, Bridge Of Spies, Eat Pray Love) takes her from the airport to her home.

Waiting for her outside on the front step is her husband, Rusty (Chris Sullivan, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Imperium, The Drop, Morgan, This Is Us). Playing it close to the heart, he acts like it’s no big deal that she’s home. After she tries to act that way as well, Our Sargent and Rusty hug and kiss each other in a passionate embrace.

After dinner with his sister, and finally alone, they re-consummate their relationship. Immediately afterward, she gets sick. Up early the next day, she has coffee ready for Rusty. He tells her about a job available with a road crew. She tells him she’s going out for a run, and takes off jogging down the road. Not able to sleep, she mows the lawn in the dark, and never seems to rest.

Barb decides to throw a welcome home party. Very nervous, and increasingly so as more people arrive, Our Sargent quickly downs beer after beer. While in the kitchen, a man walks up behind her. He starts to hug her, and she slams the man repeatedly against the front of her refrigerator, until Rusty separates the two. She leaves, heading to a bar. Finally, she heads home. She and Rusty have it out. She’s not staying in bed at night, and seems restless. Suddenly, she leans over the sink getting sick, as blood trickles out of her mouth. Rusty suggests that she goes to a VA hospital. She states there is a wait of 129 days.

The next morning, Our Sargent heads to her job on the road crew. In something of a haze, she walks off of her job. Driving away in her pickup truck, she just starts navigating. On what appears to be an aimless pursuit to no where in particular, she winds up at a summer camp near a large lake. She meets the owner, Dot (Rusty Schwimmer, Twister, Louie, The Perfect Storm, Grey’s Anatomy, A Little Princess). Our Sargent explains that she attended camp there as a little girl. Dot asks if she wants to spend the night, and she does in the back bed of her pickup truck.

The next morning, she decides to stay and help Dot out with the ton of work she needs to do to keep the place up. She calls Rusty. He’s freaking out, not knowing where she went. She tells him her plan. Really upset, not understanding why she doesn’t want to come home, Rusty is despondent. She doesn’t explain where she is, and the call ends quickly.

Directed by Remy Auberjonois (Michael Clayton, Hemingway & Gellhorn, The International, Blindspot), Blood Stripe puts us skillfully Into the heart and soul of Our Sargent as she struggles acclimating back into civilian life, suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Written by Auberjonois and Nowlin, they weave the tale of Our Sargent in an original, cinematic experience for the audience. Nowlin is outstanding as Our Sargent, and that’s an understatement. Her portrayal is spot on. We feel her discomfort, anxiety, and confusion as she struggles to get grounded with help of those around her at the camp.

Among those persons are a fisherman (Tom Lipinski, Labor Day, Youth, Mercy, Suits), a Minister, Art (Rene Auberjonois, Boston Legal, Madam Secretary, MASH, Certain Women) and Ken (Ken Marks, Side Effects, The Wackness, Kelly & Cal, Henry’s Crime, The Tick, Blue Bloods) a handyman.

This subject has been presented before, but never in this way. Completely captivating, Nowlin holds the screen as we live vicariously through her. The entire cast is superb. The cinematography is first rate, thanks to Radium Cheung (Tangerine, The Sinner, Billions). The final element of Blood Stripe is the music. Michael Friedman (Music Consultant), Mason Jennings (Musical Advisor, Ghost Town, I’m Not There, Parenthood, How I Met Your Mother, 180 South), Chris Robertson (True Grit, No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading), and Musical Editor, Matthew Stine, combine the visual with hauntingly beautiful songs and music from an array of super talented artists. The result is magic. Do yourself a favor, and catch this movie. I highly recommend Blood Stripe, an entertaining and quality film.

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