Review by Hunter Miele
“Mending The Line”, directed by Joshua Caldwell, is a heartfelt drama that touches on some pretty heavy themes, including PTSD, addiction, guilt and grief. Many of us encounter these mental and emotional struggles to some extent during our lives, so we can easily connect with the film’s diverse range of troubled characters. There are many different ways to heal from emotional trauma, and “Mending the Line” attempts to showcase closure and healing via one particular sport: fly fishing.
John Colton (Sinqua Walls) is a wounded Marine recovering from his wounds in a VA rehab in Montana while reluctantly attempting to recover from his emotional wounds as well (although he prefers to find solace in a bottle). When his doctor (Patricia Heaton) can clearly see that group therapy isn’t doing him any good, she suggests that he take up fly fishing as a way to cope with his survivor’s guilt. She refers him to another patient of hers, a Vietnam vet named Ike (Brian Cox) who lives and breathes the sport. Time and time again she had encouraged Ike to quit fishing alone due to his health issues, so shipping Colton off with Ike was an easy two-birds-one-stone decision.
Ike, an irritable old man with plenty of burdens to bear, doesn’t take too kindly to his doctor-prescribed new buddy right off the bat. At first, the only thing the two have in common is their military experience, but Colton- anxious to get back to active duty- has very different feelings from Ike about his time spent in combat. Ike is riddled with guilt and regret, and all he wants to do is spend time alone on the river or with his one long-time friend (Wes Studi) with whom he has witty and charming chemistry. After a heartwarming montage or two, we see Ike and Colton develop their relationship, although it lacks depth and feels rushed from beginning to end.
After being instructed by Ike to visit the VA library for “fishing literature” (who even knew there was such a thing?) Colton meets Lucy (Perry Mattfeld), a beautiful, sad-eyed librarian. She shows him to his books, and the two have an awkward, quirky moment together. We later learn that Lucy is in the clutches of grief herself, and the budding relationship between her and Colton, as well as the slow discovery of her secret past, adds some much needed drama and tension to the film.
“Mending the Line” doesn’t come close to breaking boundaries in its genre, and its pacing can be slow, but that doesn’t prevent the film from achieving its goal of portraying PTSD and grief realistically and truthfully. For those with active duty experience, the film will likely tug at a very particular heartstring and leave the viewer feeling satisfied at such an accurate example of such a complex mental burden. The actor’s honest portrayals of characters with deep emotional wounds make “Mending the Line’s” lackluster plot relatable and touching.
Blue Fox Entertainment will release MENDING THE LINE in theaters on June 9, 2023.
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