Douglas Mueller’s ‘Repatriation’ tells the story of a young solider that goes by the name of Chad Tyler who comes back from Iraq where he served his country. He comes back to his home city after a long period of time only to find everyone there, and by wearing his military uniform he gets a special status in the community. Right after he arrives at the bus stop, his life goes on a uplifting pass, everybody offering him free drinks, people being nice to him, most of his old acquaintances being happy to see him safe and sound. But then, at the right moment, the narrative goes wild and his life story becomes shaky. What happens next is pure genius!
Some time ago we had the privilege to host a movie in our festival called ‘Elijah’s Ashes‘. The actor starring in that movie was Ryan Barton-Grimley, also the star of the film we’re reviewing. Usually we are not doing this, but now we will take some space to talk about his acting. We remember so well ‘Elijah’s Ashes’ just because of the two main actors that were absolutely magnificent! In ‘Repatriation’, Grimley is astonishing; the character he is portraying is quite hard to play, but he does it with great ease. We receive hundreds of movies every year, and only a few have starring actors that stand out. Grimley, however, became our personal favorite with two movies and two characters that were perfectly made for his amazing talent.
From a technical point of view, ‘Repatriation’ is impeccable. The entire technical spectrum is appropriate for the story. The score was adequate, enhancing the mood of the story, being uplifting in the beginning and then showing the “naked truth” in the end. The camera work was natural, like we hardly see these days where many directors are focusing on experimenting angles and styles, and tend to forget the bare simplicity of following a story as it is.
One other thing that caught our attention was the backdrop. In the cover letter, Mueller explains a little bit why this city was chosen: “I was also focused on making the atmosphere in Repatriation reflect my experience growing up in a remote, medium sized town in the mid-west and the moment I began writing it, I envisioned Dubuque, Iowa as the backdrop. I was born in Dubuque, but never lived there but I knew its beautiful brick downtown area would give Repatriation a familiar, if not recognizable setting.“ We noticed the predominant brown color backdrop, but only after we finished watching ‘Repatriation’ we made some connections. To begin with, it reminded us of a cult novel of the American beat generation “And the hippos were boiled in their tanks” written by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, where at some point, the authors are presenting a small industrial city, where the most noticeable elements were the brown bricks. Even though the story was going other ways, the particular way the city was presented gave the reader a strange feeling. The same strange yet beautiful feeling popped into our minds and hearts whilst watching ‘Repatriation’. Also, the brown bricks are the key statement of the small towns where not many of the residents leave, where the so called domestic life, the average familial life was born, where the industry rules both the town and in some ways the life of the residents.
In the near future we hope to see ‘Repatriation’ on the big screen and why not, on the small screen also, to enjoy it again and again in the comfort of our own houses. A friendly advice for everyone reading this review: if you ever have the chance to see ‘Repatriation’, go see it! It is an amazing movie about how life works, and how we can make life (in one way or another) work in our best interest.