Eric Stacey’s Purple Mind is the story of soldier Roy Matthews (Will Shepherd), finally returning home from the Iraq War. His wife Jenna (Emily Bridges) and daughter Crystal (Brighid Fleming) welcome him with open arms, but things with Roy are not okay, and he’s exhibiting more than a few signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. In a bold attempt to give the family a fresh start, they move out to an isolated cattle ranch. While there, Roy’s behavior continues to go downhill, which catches the attention of local sheriff Dylan (Corey Brunish), who offers to get Roy in touch with someone who may be more understanding of his plight.
For the most part, Roy’s condition is expressed by him walking around, smoking and giving attitude to anyone who dares talk to him. From time to time the film attempts to give a more visual cue for Roy’s problems, fleshing out a hallucination or three, but these usually accompany Roy’s more awful moments. Most of the time, he’s just moody with a possibility of melodramatic explosion.
Which makes sense, even if his more bombastic moments seem more over-the-top than I imagine they actually would be. The honest truth is that a film about someone suffering PTSD is going to have a certain performance leeway, because there’s no guideline for how someone suffering from PTSD should be in life, let alone in a movie. So even if I found Roy to go a bit too overboard with the melodrama at times, that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there to whom this film is spot-on.
The behavior of the sheriff is where the film strains credulity a little bit, however. It’s not all that strange that the sheriff would take an interest in a new family in town, especially when Roy is fond of carrying a gun and seems to be more than a little troubled. Also not that strange that, upon seeing the potential of PTSD in Roy, that the sheriff offers help. When things come to a head near the end of the film, however, the sheriff is right in the middle of things in what seems to both be an instigator role and then moves into a weird, slightly creepy, vigilante justice mode of action. To me, it seems like the film needed to force a more extreme, external conflict to move Roy’s character arc along, even if it felt more than a little out of place to have the sheriff instigating matters to the extent that he does.
Other than my issues with the sheriff’s eventual behavior and character in the film, I found the film to be a solid story about a soldier returning from war and trying to reconcile his place in his family after so much time living a different life. The film could’ve taken a more subtle trip with Roy’s character, but it decided to try and weave more of the external anguish in than just the quiet, troubled brooding. It’s a choice that didn’t always work for me, but I respect it.
Overall, Purple Mind is an okay film. It’s not exceptional, hardly the best film I’ve seen about soldiers home from war and what that means for their lives, but it properly respects the subject and doesn’t make too much of a caricature of things. There was potential for this to be a truly horrible movie, but it steers clear of a number of those traps. Sometimes it does hit a pothole, but for the most part it navigates through safely.
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