Long Forgotten Fields is a film about a soldier returning from war with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), set in a stunning forest in Shropshire. There is very much a focus on the scenery, perhaps because director Jon Stanford grew up in the area and has used it in the backdrop of several of his shorts beforehand. As the story develops, the forest becomes less inviting and Sam (Tom Campion) begins to show more symptoms of PTSD while his girlfriend Lily (Rebecca Birch) tries to help him.
The nostalgic British countryside is a pleasant backdrop despite what is happening with Sam, and firmly brings home the issue of what happens to soldiers after they return. Early on, Sam’s sister questions Lily by asking ‘do you think he’s killed anyone?’ and this again highlights the unknown between the soldier and his family. There is a separation between Sam and those closest to him, which Campion plays well by increasingly producing dead eyes as the film develops. As he descends into a psychotic break, he starts to do stranger things – from thinking his hand has been cut to a particularly difficult scene in which he forces Lily to kill a chicken. All of this set within green and leafy Shropshire, it jars and evokes a sympathy that would be – unfortunately – more difficult to achieve in a warzone.
“The feature, I hope, will create a discussion about how we should treat service men and women who do suffer from PTSD”
There is a good chemistry between the two leads, who create a believable struggling relationship in which Lily is trying her best to assist him. Campion also is very impressive in his depiction, creating a character who by the end is reduced to almost child-like behaviours and a heart-breaking moment near the film’s end. The feature, I hope, will create a discussion about how we should treat service men and women who do suffer from PTSD, as in Britain especially we are lacking in our support after they are decommissioned. The film portrays the suffering of the two leads particularly well, showing how it affects not only those who fought but also those around them.
While the film is a good example of this, it is let down by its lack of insularity. While it tries to isolate the two leads by placing them in a forest and separating them from their families, the presence of other characters – particularly Harlequin Jones (played brilliantly by Simon Armstrong) – whilst adding to the story also detract from the feeling of detachment that they are aiming to create. This means that unfortunately the film is lacking in something that would have really brought it into the fore, and feels much more typical than it should do. As Jon Stanford’s first feature length film, however, it is impressive and stunningly shot and edited, indicating his strong directorial ability.
Image: Jon Stanford