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SYNOPSIS

Just back from combat, Justin, a young U.S. Marine veteran - burdened by the physical and emotional scars of war - faces a new battle to find purpose in the mundane existence of civilian life during a time of national economic strife.

Justin’s time is split between part-time studies at the local community college and working part-time hours at the local wood mill where his boss and Vietnam War veteran, Paul, offers to be a voice of support for Justin on the troubles of adjusting to life back home and co-workers invite him into their social lives.

At school, Justin finds friendship with Cheri, one of his teachers, which soon develops into romance. Cheri, new to town as well, sees in Justin a strong and intelligent man trapped by circumstances and self-doubt. The emotional toll of loss during the war shackles Justin’s ability to open himself up to Cheri and the chasm between the experiences of his life and the experiences of those around him drives Justin to drop everything and disappear into the wilderness where he can be alone and free of all the pressures.

As Justin retreats from the pressures all around him and leaves to live in the woods, the film explores in visceral and unflinching detail the hardships Justin faces with homelessness and isolation. Through it all his determination for a reclaimed sense of purpose drives him to push on with every day a new mission to find himself.
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PRODUCTION NOTES:

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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