Bastards’ Road: The hardships of PTSD and the power of cinematography


Jonathan Hancock in Badlands National Park in Bastard's Road.
Jonathan Hancock in Badlands National Park in Bastard’s Road.

4 Stars

PTSD is a very difficult subject for many people to fully understand. Therefore, it is an even more difficult topic to make into a film. However, Bastards’ Road does an excellent job of representing this condition through clever cinematographic choices.

Bastards’ Road is a 96 minute documentary that focuses on veteran Jon Hancock, an American who served in the Iraq War. After returning home  the horrendous things he had both seen and done followed him, resulting in chaos in his personal life and mental health.

Ranging from alcohol abuse to suicidal tendencies, Jon had come home as a different man and found it difficult to get help.

To heal himself, he journeys across the United States on foot, visiting his friends from the Marines along the way, as he contemplates both the war and his life.

One amazing aspect of this film is the cinematographic choices that are used. For example, in the film, we see many shots of Jon walking past beautiful, relaxing landscapes. In these shots, he is often shadowed and silhouetted while the nature is colored in soft, pastel colors.

In a sense, this represents Jon’s dark, internal struggles, but also the fact that there will always be hope for him, which is shown by the light and color in the background.

Here, the audience is able to visually see and understand how disconnected Jon is from the world and the extent to what he is going through. By casting him in shadows, the audience can understand the emotional darkness that the shadows symbolize.

Additionally, the film includes actual footage from the Iraq War that we see while Jon and his friends discuss the horrors of war. While this footage is not always pleasant to watch, it heightens the overall stories and allows the viewer to better understand war and PTSD and therefore relate to the veterans.

When the audience is able to see actual footage of the events that, years later, still haunt these men, it is easier to understand where Jon and his friends are coming from. This footage is utilized perfectly, as it is weaved within the veterans’ personal stories.

Bastards’ Road is an incredibly heartfelt narrative that shows the difficulties of war and overcoming your past. Through cinematic techniques, the quality of the film is increased, resulting in a superb film without a dull moment.

Whether you like or dislike documentaries or movies about war, this film’s uniqueness and beauty makes it a must-see for everyone, due in part to its importance and educational value.

Reviewer Charles Babikian

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(Where to catch the film: A Gravitas Ventures award-winning feature documentary, “Bastards’ Road” can be found on TVOD/digital platforms & DVD.  Find it at  Link Tree/ bastgardsroad.)