'Repatriation': Film Review

The tension slowly rises in this intriguing character study.

A soldier is warmly greeted by his old friends after returning home in Douglas Mueller's indie drama.

There has been no shortage of films centering on the subject of soldiers coming home after serving overseas. But Douglas Mueller's drama puts an intriguing spin on the familiar subject, its main character turning out to be suffering from something far different than post-traumatic stress disorder. Featuring a terrific performance by Ryan Barton-Grimley in the lead role, Repatriation is a modest indie film worth seeking out.  

The story begins with Chad (Barton-Grimley) returning to his Midwestern hometown, still wearing the fatigues testifying to his military service. He immediately embarks on a bar crawl, where at each stop he's warmly welcomed by old friends who eagerly offer to buy him drinks. Chad doesn't decline their generosity, reacting stoically to the effusions of support that greet him at every turn.

Among those he encounters is Camille (Jes Mercer), with whom he quickly enjoys a mutual flirtation. It turns out that the bubbly woman has been attracted to Chad since their high school days when he was a star basketball player. But when she declines his offer to take things further after they spend time together bowling and playing pinball games, Chad, now clearly inebriated, displays a darker side.

"Do you know how many girls would literally fucking kill to be in your position right now?" he hisses to Camille, who promptly flees.

Things don't get much better for Chad from there as he discovers that not everyone is willing to grant him special favors just because he's in uniform, including a convenience store clerk who laughs at his request for a discount price on cigarettes and condoms. He also runs into several former friends and acquaintances who have less than happy memories of their past times together. The more things go south, the darker Chad's personality gets.

Director-screenwriter Mueller has a hard time stretching his concept into feature length, even with a short running time. The proceedings are slow to get started, with the story's setup lacking dramatic tension. But Repatriation gains urgency as it goes along, and the ending packs a powerful punch. Still, it's hard not to think that it perhaps might have been more effective as a short film. 

The bleak atmosphere of the small-town setting is excellently conveyed, with the first-rate camerawork, editing and musical score accomplishing a lot on a small budget. But it's Barton-Grimley's intriguingly enigmatic turn that gives the story true dramatic complexity. His increasingly disturbing character will make you think twice before reflectively uttering that by-now shopworn phrase, "Thank you for your service."

Production company: RBG Films
Distributor: Indie Rights
Cast: Ryan Barton-Grimley, Jeremy Clark, Jes Mercer, Jonathan Wikholm, Antonio Brunetti, John Orantes
Director-screenwriter-production designer: Douglas Mueller
Producers: Douglas Mueller, Ryan Barton-Grimley, Malinda DeRouen
Executive producers: Thomas Mueller, Joel M. Schneider
Director of photography: Ricky J. Cortex
Editors: Ryan Barton-Grimley, Douglas Mueller
Composer: Robby Elfman
Casting: Malinda DeRouen

77 minutes