“When you lose someone you can reinvent them…get to the core, the truth as much as we can.”
At the outset, Leave-Taking, the audience award winner of the Mindscape Film Festival, takes the form of yet another story about the impacts of war and how it ripples through a family.
This particular tale is told the eyes of the wife, son and daughter of a Vietnam vet. It’s one that’s familiar—a soldier return home from the battle ground with wounds, most notably psychological.
By now, most of us had heard the term PTSD and what it implies. We know that trauma has a deep impact on our psyche. We’ve heard stories of returning soldiers unable to cope with life; what they’ve seen and experienced haunts them. As a result they act in strange, befuddling, sometimes disturbing ways.
The crux of the story in Leave-Taking, comes down to the words we hear at the beginning of the film from the soldier’s daughter, Laura Snow, who serves as both the film’s narrator and its director:
“For ten years, from when I was five, my father lived in a camper in the backyard…near, not entirely absent, but away from us.”
Since that time, Ms. Snow, blames herself for her father’s beguiling actions. She assumes she was the catalyst for him leaving, that somehow she was responsible.
Only many years later, when she’s an adult and only months before her father’s passing, does she discovers, through a letter, her father’s real motivations. The revelation subsequently alleviates her long held feelings of guilt and self condemnation, allowing her to see her father in a new light.
At it’s core this is a film about the assumptions we make. Some are benign, others less so. As is the case for Ms. Snow, they can lead us down a road of suffering and grief.
But sometimes life offers us a gift, allowing us to see beyond our own false conclusions.
This gift may not have the power to change the past, but it can transform our relationship to it. In doing so we retrieve both our freedom and the present moment.