The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Marine Colonel Eric Hastings, a quiet man of wide smile and thin hair, stands knee-deep in a whispering river, several decades and thousands of miles removed from the brutal chaos of the Vietnam war. As head of the group “Warriors and Quiet Waters,” he now brings damaged young veterans of more recent conflicts to his Montana ranch in hopes that the tranquility of fly-fishing will help relieve their stress disorders. In this touching documentary, the wounds of the past are soothed by flowing waters.
These are men of broken body. Until the camera moves, we would not know, because they seem frank and reflective, with no indication of damage. But, almost every participant is missing an eye, or leg, or more. Then, as they speak, we notice some awkwardness in their conversation. Some remember the blasts that shattered them. Others remember their hospital beds. One paraplegic warrior, in a deadpan tone, narrates a list of his injuries, seen in jump-cuts.
A Navy Seal with steel eyes speaks through his iPad's computer voice, typing long sentences with one finger. When he plays his message, he remains in a posture of meditation for long moments after his text runs out. As he silently struggles through frustrating rounds of rehabilitation, learning to walk with a prosthetic leg, we wonder how many stories his frozen expression hides. But he finds light in the support of his wife of seven months.
There are, however, others whose afflictions are hidden from us. A reserved man in sunglasses and collared shirt looks like a forty-year-old employee of the ranch. But, he is only 28, former bomb technician who lived on adrenaline. When his trainer apologizes for touching him, we anticipate some serious revelations about his deep wounds. He compares his six-year Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to a leech that slowly crept up on him until it started biting. Now he keeps his distance from people, trying not to recall the vile, disgusting violence he associates with all humanity. At the ranch, he accepts that there people in the world who do care for veterans like himself. Soon, he is able to accept their hugs.