Minimalist drama that makes for uncomfortable but compelling viewing.
Based on the appropriately titled short story Veterans, Oliver Sherman tells of the relationship between two veterans of an unspecified war, Franklin (Donal Logue) and Sherman (Garret Dillahunt).
Franklin has managed to deal with his war time experience, settling down in a remote town, finding a wife, Irene (Molly Parker) having kids and generally becoming a normal and productive member of society. Things seem dandy until Sherman shows up at his door.
Sherman isn't doing so well, having drifted through life in the seven or so years since his discharge from hospital, after a near fatal head wound that would have seen him shipped home in a bodybag were it not for Franklin dragging him to safety.
Sherman seems haunted by his wartime experience, and unable to return to a normal life, if indeed whenever had one. Socially awkward and uncomfortable, his social faux pas seem to be on the verge of pushing him further down a dark path.
Irene certainly grows tired of his presence, as Sherman quickly outstays his welcome, drinking to hide a despondency and jealousy over his comparatively empty life. Despite feeling compassion and sympathy for the man, there's only so much of Sherman's behaviour Franklin can excuse. The question remains - will Sherman be pushed over the edge by the rejection?
Oliver Sherman by no means undertakes a conventional handling of the post traumatic stress disorder theme, if indeed the subject has been covered extensively enough to have established any conventions. At any rate, this takes a very minimal approach, hanging the film squarely on two powerful central performances from Logue and Dillahunt. Dillahunt in particular is so convincing that I can only assume that the man himself is a shade unhinged.
Their deteriorating relationship provides moments of genuine tension and drama, often using very little more than glances and a bare minimum of dialogue. Indeed, the only flaw this film has is a very occasional line that seems to have been lifted more from a poem than something these veterans would be comfortable saying.
Oliver Sherman makes for powerful, but uncomfortable watching. It's not exactly making itself very easy to love - in absolute terms, not an awful lot happens over the course of the film which can make the pacing feel a little slow, but it's exactly that slow burn that provides the palpable tension in the final reels.
There's no overwhelming score or other obvious attempts at audience manipulation, which I applaud wholeheartedly, but it's going to make the film seem a spartan if you're not used to the arthouse sensibilities.
So, Oliver Sherman is far from easy to watch. It's also not the sort of film that you enjoy, exactly. But it does provide an impact that few dramas I've watched this year have been able to match.
Should this show up somewhere near you, it's certainly worth the effort of heading to see it.
Donal Logue (Franklin Page)
Molly Parker (Irene Page)
Kaelan Meunier (Jacob Page)