I'm a huge fan of this small, realistic, superbly rendered directorial debut from Texas native Ryan Piers Williams. Williams' thoughtful script and film bores in on the pain and fallout of PTSD, both in terms of the guilt and heaviness carried by the afflicted - here portrayed vividly by lead Ryan O'Nan, who is outstanding in every way - and the waves of impact he spreads slowly, then suddenly, over friends and family.
The ensemble is uniformly excellent. As mentioned, lead O'Nan is a revelation. The radiant and talented America Ferrera is here, too, as winning as ever. Not only is she the lead actress, she's also the film's executive producer. She'd not set out to appear in the film, but decided to do so when she and Mr. Williams (the two, who met at USC Film School, are engaged to be married) realized that her presence on-screen would make the film stand out amongst other film festival submissions.
We had the stroke of good fortune to see 'The Dry Land' at the 2010 Dallas International Film Festival. Williams, O'Nan and Ms. Ferrara spoke to the audience after the film (we'd missed Wilmer Valderrama - he appeared at a previous showing and caused, as you can imagine, a bit of a commotion). It was there we learned of the filmmakers' assiduous efforts to gain the military's support for their production.
In fact, a visit to Walter Reed Hospital figures prominently in film and it was clearly done with the backing of the armed forces. Moreover, the film was shown to warm and enthusiastic receptions in military bases across the country. One could truthfully say that the film has made a meaningful contribution to the US military's move down the 'road of evolution' towards acceptance of the true, insidious character of PTSD. As the film shows, it's not just in your head, and it's not a sign of weakness.
Another actor worth special mention: Diego Klattenhoff, amazing as Henry. O'Nan's and Valderrama's characters make a multi-state road trip to see their erstwhile company-mate now in a sorry physical state - not to mention a precarious mental one - at Walter Reed. It's Diego's Henry who indelibly brings to the surface the memory that O'Nan's James has tried so desperately to bury.
I urge all fans of quality independent cinema to support this tremendous film.