How ‘Indivisible’s’ approach to PTSD is different from other war movies

Oct 29, 2018, 10:45 AM
Michael O’Neill plays Chaplain Rogers in “Indivisible." (Jaclyn Edmonson, Provident Films LLC.)...
Michael O’Neill plays Chaplain Rogers in “Indivisible." (Jaclyn Edmonson, Provident Films LLC.)
(Jaclyn Edmonson, Provident Films LLC.)

“INDIVISIBLE” — 3 stars — Justin Bruening, Sarah Drew, Jason George, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Skye P. Marshall; PG-13 (some thematic material and war violence); in general release

“Indivisible” isn’t the first film to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder — 2017’s gritty “Thank You for Your Service” also springs to mind — but it does takes a uniquely spiritual approach to the harrowing subject.

Based on a true story, David G. Evans’ film follows Army chaplain Darren Turner (Justin Bruening) and his wife Heather (Sarah Drew), who wrestle to keep their marriage together through Darren’s first deployment and its unexpected aftermath.

Shortly after arriving in Iraq as part of the 2007 surge, Darren’s commanding officer presents the rookie chaplain with a generous stack of divorce proceedings from the men in the camp, along with a not-so-subtle warning that he could be next. Despite the steep odds, Darren maintains that he and and his wife are confident God is behind his assignment, and that their marriage will hold tight.

Testing that conviction has to wait as Darren gets to know the soldiers at Forward Operating Base Falcon — including a young father named Lance Bradley (Tanner Stine), single mother and ex-SWAT team member Sgt. Shonda Peterson (Skye P. Marshall) and a bitter, alienated soldier named Michael Lewis (Jason George). In an awkward twist, Lewis also happens to be Darren’s not-so-friendly neighbor at home in Georgia.

While Darren tries to make spiritual inroads in Iraq, Heather juggles her own responsibilities back home, which include taking care of three kids and heading up the local Family Readiness Group. As a liaison for the other military families, she meets Bradley’s pregnant wife Amanda (Madeline Carroll) and Lewis’ wife Tonya (Tia Mowry-Hardrict).

Enthusiasm and a positive attitude pay serious dividends for both Darren and Heather, but as the rookie chaplain survives close encounters with mortar attacks, hostile ambushes and the resulting casualties, he tragically finds himself struggling with his own faith even while it blossoms in those he’s serving.

Things only get worse as Heather’s challenges at home — including a medical scare for their daughter Elie (Samara Lee) — add to their long-distance marital tension. As Darren’s 15-month deployment grinds forward, the spiritual mission he and Heather felt such conviction for early on slowly threatens to tear their marriage apart.

Because of its strong spiritual perspective, “Indivisible” isn’t quite as dark as other films on PTSD — the PG-13 rating stems primarily from limited war violence — but the movie does provide a thought-provoking angle on the “why does God let bad things happen to good people” discussion.

But the film can also be a bit talk-heavy at times; for example, a sloppy opening tries to give the audience too much information all at once. But the film’s strong message still shines through, especially aided by Drew’s performance as Heather — a performance military wives should appreciate regardless of religious background. And considering the film’s comparatively limited budget, “Indivisible” does an admirable job with its war sequences.

Altogether, Evans has put together a thoughtful look at the wide-ranging effects of PTSD that should resonate with military families. But more specifically, “Indivisible,” with its spiritual focus, will resonate with those who understand that even the most devout will see their faith tried in unexpected ways.

“Indivisible” is rated PG-13 for some thematic material and war violence; running time: 119 minutes.

Joshua Terry is an award-winning writer and photographer who also teaches English composition for Weber State University. He has written weekly film reviews for the Deseret News since 2013.

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How ‘Indivisible’s’ approach to PTSD is different from other war movies