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From the Los Angeles Times:
Review: 'Fray' stands at, and deserves, attention
An examination of a war veteran's rocky return home may seem familiar, but this superior look at an ongoing problem serves to pack a punch.

The thought of another movie about a war veteran readjusting to civilian life may elicit a feeling that you've been there and done that, but give "Fray" a chance. It's a stirring and involving character study that may not cover much new ground but still packs a quiet punch.

Justin (Bryan Kaplan) is a U.S. Marine who, after five tours of duty — three in Iraq and two in Afghanistan — has come to live in a small, blue-collar town. But money is tight for the haunted, edgy Justin, who's trying to hold it together working sporadic hours at the local lumber mill, living in a dumpy apartment, tending to a bum leg earned in battle and taking classes at the community college.

Matters improve when Justin starts dating his attractive college instructor, the kind, if lonely Cheri (Marisa Costa). Not surprisingly, however, love and commitment are tough hurdles for the wary ex-soldier. He also has a hard time accepting help from his sympathetic mill boss (Wes Harris), an older veteran.

How Justin navigates his shaky present and uncertain future is handled with grit and authenticity — and a welcome lack of mind's-eye combat flashbacks — by writer-director Geoff Ryan. Kaplan comes off so convincingly, it's not unfair to wonder if he's truly an actor (he is).

"Fray" proves a superior look at what happens when the Justins come marching home.


Shot on location in the Coastal Mountains of Oregon and the logging communities outside of Portland, director Geoff Ryan wanted to place the film in a landscape that visually expressed the inner thoughts of a young veteran who has been scarred by war. "It really became a symbol for his life. The logging industry was a perfect metaphor for what I was trying to say about this character - His majestic beauty and power cut down by human exploitation hidden from view of the rest of us," said Ryan.

The area is also the home of Ryan's cousin, the inspiration for the film, who was badly wounded in Iraq and whose return home from combat has been a struggle. His cousin was on set many of the shooting days offering guidance on authenticity and even offered to be a body double in the film for a scene where the lead character's scars are seen. "Since we didn't have much of a budget - it was totally self-financed -  the only way to do it convincingly was to have the real thing," said Ryan, "I didn't know how to ask for such a personal favor, but fortunately he could read my mind and offered." 

Through the development of the screenplay, Ryan spent countless days over the course of two years with homeless veterans across the United States hearing their stories and seeing their daily struggles in the hope of understanding, as fully as someone who has not been to war is able to, what their life is like. Continuing with this quest for authenticity, Ryan had lead actor, Bryan Kaplan, spend time with a group of veterans in a nearby homeless shelter who were gracious enough to take him in and open up their stories to him. "He made more progress finding his character that one day than in all the rehearsals we had done leading up to that" said Ryan. Mr. Kaplan remembers thanking the men for their time and being told, "Thank you for wanting to tell the world our story". "It was that moment that changed this from being a great role, to being a mission for me," said Kaplan, "I just want to do their story justice."
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