A long scar running down the back of a shaved head is our first introduction to Sherman Oliver (Garret Dillahunt), one of the most troubling individuals you’re likely to come across for a while.
Sherman has been in the army, has killed in war, has nearly died of a terrible head wound and thought his name was Oliver Sherman for a long time, thanks to an administrative mix-up at the hospital where he recovered. He turns up on the doorstep of the man who saved his life, Franklin Page (Donal Logue, on typically excellent form) with no apparent fixed aim. In the seven years since he was injured and discharged from the army, he seems to have failed to make a single human connection.
Things look much better for Franklin, with a sweet, intelligent wife, Irene (Molly Parker) and two small children. Irene at first welcomes their visitor, but becomes increasingly uneasy as his stay lengthens and his behaviour alters. Though at first he’s polite, it becomes increasingly apparent that Sherman is seriously disturbed, and Irene suspects that he wants to drag her husband back down the path of madness with him.
Although Ryan Redford, the director, has claimed that he didn’t want to make a political film, Oliver Sherman can’t help but pose the question, what happens to veterans when they leave the armed forces? Once they’ve killed and witnessed unbearable horrors, can they ever truly recover, like Franklin? Or will those images be forever burned into their brains, altering them entirely, and preventing them from interacting normally with the world, like Sherman? And how much do we owe these damaged men and women? How far can we let them go, as Irene asks, before we say enough?
Deeply tense and unsettling, Oliver Sherman is supported by tremendously powerful performances by the three leads. Occupying the screen for most of the film, Dillahunt’s awkward aggression, Logue’s easygoing kindness and Parker’s strength under fire are all equally impressive and equally important. In his first feature-length film, writer and director Reynolds has pulled off a tricky balancing act and made it look easy. His career will almost certainly be one to watch.
Cameo 1, 16 June 7.50pm, 18 June 1pm