Hearts & Minds

A young veteran who's tainted by the war he’s fought struggles to accomplish day-to-day tasks without getting triggered by his PTSD.  Instead, he ends up falling in and out of a black void inside of his mind; a trial lead by his dead friend Ethan.  Going back between the real world and the world inside his head, Liam tries to prove to himself and his wife that he can be a father and a husband again.

Director Statement

Hearts and Minds is about a young decorated veteran named Liam who is struggling with his return home from war. His unstable headspace has scared his family away and just before the 
film starts, he moves out of his house. He now lives alone, hoping that one day he will be able to return to his wife, Jackie, and daughter, Abby.

After moving into a dinky apartment, Liam finds 
himself depressed and alone on his daughter’s birthday. He calls her but Jackie cuts the conversation short and this motivates Liam to prove to himself that he is capable of living a normal life. However his day-to-day life triggers an internal void that he falls into and this hinders his ability to complete normal tasks. He hits a wall, and against his wife’s wishes he tries to see his daughter, and even though he is rejected again, he receives a glimpse of hope that maybe one day he will.

This film deals with themes of isolation, survivor’s guilt, compassion, cognitive imbalance and societal misunderstanding which are incredibly important in the grand scheme of a veterans return home. 80% of PTSD cases are actually only short term and that is because most men and women actually do have some positive experiences that they want to remember. Where 
the return gets difficult is when society gives soldiers permission not to fully participate. This is seen when Jackie doesn’t let Liam see his daughter. We want to bring to light the feelings of veterans upon returning to a wealthy society that is fortunate enough to be far away from the war.

Not being directly effected by the war makes it hard to understand what is going on. We end up giving the veterans banners and parades (which they deserve) but we don’t give them what they 
truly need, a job - something that makes them feel necessary to society like they felt when they were in the service. In this particular story we want to hit the importance of supporting our veterans.

We want to make an emotional film that makes the audience think about how difficult it is for veterans to return home by putting them in a veterans shoes. What makes this film unique is that we want to visually show what is happening inside Liam’s head and how his internal thoughts disrupt his life externally. By falling into the void, we are given information about his past - his military service and the loss of his best friend Ethan. We cut back and forth 
between the internal and external which will allow us to compare and contrast Liam’s life.

Externally, he is trying to keep a brave face and be strong while internally he is being beaten down by his own thoughts. 
I want the camera to feel somewhat disconnected from Liam in the external scenes. I take a lot of my inspiration for those scenes from the film Manchester by the Sea. In that film, Lee Chandler struggles with the guilt of his past while trying to move on. He is very cold, and doesn’t react like we would expect. When he is told about the death of his brother, Lee is clearly in pain but his reaction is much different from the people around him. He doesn’t cry, in fact he 
looks like he has no emotion about it, until finally he starts blurting out swears. For the internal void scenes I want it to be very dark with only spotlights revealing certain places. This is a representation of inside his head, which is filled with dark thoughts. When you are in a dark place, the brain chooses to highlight certain things rather than others making it difficult to change your thinking. I take inspiration from the Ward C scenes in Shutter Island when Teddy Daniels is using matches to see the prisoners in the cells.

I really want to get this film out there because it is an important topic of conversation that needs to be had especially now that we have a new wave of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans integrating back 
into society. There are lots of veterans who are unemployed and struggling with survivors guilt and society needs to be put into the shoes of a returning veteran to understand how difficult it is 
to go from war to a peaceful society.