Title: In Our Name
Writer-director: Brian Welsh
Starring: Joanne Froggatt, Mel Raido, Andrew Knott, Chloe-Jayne Wilkinson, Janine Leigh, Shah Amin
A British coming-home-from-war drama that toes the line between pedestrian and interesting, though tilting toward the former, ‘In Our Name’ connects chiefly as a gender-shift curiosity given its main focus on a female soldier. Joanne Froggatt’s engaging performance, which picked up the Most Promising Newcomer prize at this past year’s British Independent Film Awards, is the chief selling point of writer-director Brian Welsh’s sophomore outing, which otherwise cycles through the expected interpersonal difficulties of trying to readjust to civilian and married life.
‘In Our Name’ opens with Suzy Jackson (Froggatt) returning from a tough tour in Afghanistan, and finding her young daughter Cass (Chloe-Jayne Wilkinson) emotionally distant. Racked by nightmares and sensory flashbacks, Suzy finds readjustment to domestic life a bit hard. Suzy’s connection, however real or imagined, with fellow platoon member Paul Reynolds (Andrew Knott, who slightly resembles Edward Norton’s hypothetical younger English brother) only further exacerbates tension between she and her husband Mark (Mel Raido), who is also a soldier. As they try fitfully to reconnect, Mark’s insecurities and fairly nasty temper eventually boil over, leading Suzy to make a discovery that questions whether they have a future together.
Ignoring the fact that ‘In Our Name’ comes across like that recent ’Saturday Night Live’ movie trailer parody of a thickly-accented English crime drama — most pronounced in scenes with Suzy’s sister Marie (Janine Leigh), and between Mark and his drinking buddies — the main problem with Welsh’s film is the rather familiar trajectory of its dramatic plotting, which touches almost all of the expected bases, at a leisurely clip. Flashbacks and other post-traumatic stress indicators? Check. A war-zone victim who reminds the troubled protagonist of his/her own offspring? Check. The covering up of post-traumatic stress problems so as not to damage chances at a military promotion? Check. Sexual frustration between man and wife upon reunion? Check. Paranoia and acting out over (perceived) infidelities or other signs of independence? Check. Lots of alcohol and flared tempers? Check. It’s not particularly that any of this material is terribly rendered, it’s just that it is mostly similar to what audiences have seen before in Stop-Loss, Brothers, Home of the Brave or any number of other, older return-from-war movies.
Peppered in amidst this rote drama, however, are a few uncommon and therefore quite interesting scenes, including an extended political discussion/argument with an immigrant cabbie (Shah Amin), and some scenes which really dig into Suzy’s attempts to reconnect with her daughter. Excepting a strange dedication (“To the thousands of servicemen and women who have been incarcerated in British prisons after attempting to return to civilian life”) that seems to exculpate its subjects from individual responsibility, Welsh’s movie is a seemingly sincere cinematic tip of the cap to members of the British military for their service, and a recognition of war’s inherent nastiness and emotional toll.
Aiding Welsh in this enterprise is Froggatt, who, as previously mentioned, gives a nice performance. Slender and pretty in an unintimidating way, kind of like Michelle Monaghan, Froggatt is relatable in the film on a variety of levels — as a soldier, mother, wife and would-be officer. Her turn isn’t showy, just solid across the board; she coaxes an emotional investment out of the audience. Cinematographer Sam Case also delivers some fine work, effectively utilizing shadow and a depressed color palette to convey emotional isolation. Unfortunately, they and the rest of the cast labor in service of a story that is — sadly, on several levels — all too recognizable.
Written by: Brent Simon