There’s a movie out there that hasn’t been heavily advertised or publicized, but it’s a hidden treasure.
Several of us went to the Grand to go see one of the final showings of “Mending the Line,” on a recommendation, mostly because Alexandria native Will Torbett is the film editor.
Sadly, we were the only ones in the theater for the afternoon matinee showing. It’s no longer showing there, but is available to stream on various platforms. It hasn’t attracted the masses, I presume, because it isn’t a sci-fi thriller or packed with comic-book action figures, chase scenes and exploding buildings or people.
No, this is the antidote to that kind of movie. It is thoughtful, emotional, gritty, funny, lyrical, redemptive and beautiful. It’s one of those movies you come out of with misty eyes and warm smiles.
Warning: it is R-rated for some rough language that isn’t necessary to enhance the plot, but the good outweighs the bad.
It’s about two Marines from different wars — Vietnam and Afghanistan — and they find solace and therapy and happiness, at least temporarily, in fly-fishing. They meet at a V.A. Clinic in Montana, and they are counseled to fish together.
The grizzled Vietnam vet (Ike Fletcher, played by Brian Cox) is a loveable cuss whose life, as one estranged from his family, revolves around the sport. He teaches the sport to the younger Afghanistan vet (John Colter, played by Sinqua Wells), who is wracked with guilt about his leadership role in the war.
Joshua Caldwell, the director, and writer Stephen Camelio don’t varnish the sensitive subject of PTSD but shine on it the light of compassion that comes from other unselfish souls. Camelio fashioned the main actors and events from a compilation of real experiences learned from his father, who served in Vietnam, was exposed to Agent Orange, waged a long battle with cancer and died in 2013.
The acting is superb. In addition to the two lead roles, others who deliver good performances are Perry Matfield as Lucy, Patricia Heaton as Dr. Burke and Wes Studi as Fletcher’s friend, Harrison.
Loved Bill Brown’s score, appreciated Torbett’s film editing and almost snuggled with the quotes from Steve Ramirez’s fly-fishing tutorial “Casting Forward.”
Such as: “So, you stand in the river, facing upstream with the water rushing down upon you as if it could somehow fill the hollow emptiness — and somehow, it always does. So it was one morning. I stood there, without even casting and with no trout rising, and as the water rushed past me, I knew it was washing my burdens behind me, swirling them downstream like the autumn leaves.”
This war-veteran movie is at the same time the best fly-fishing movie I’ve seen since “A River Runs Through It.” It deserves a better audience.
Bob Tompkins enjoyed a 43-year newspaper career as an award-winning writer and editor, serving the last 39 years at the Town Talk in Alexandria through most of 2015. He is a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as a past winner of the LSWA’s Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism. An Alexandria resident, Tompkins is a contributing columnist sharing his talents with Rapides Parish Journal readers.