Mending the Line Parent Guide
The film flounders in its sometimes clumsy execution but it lands a solid message of hope and healing.
Parent Movie Review
A hostile takedown in Afghanistan leaves John Colter (Sinqua Walls) wounded and his buddies dead. Sent home to the United States, the ex-marine is placed in the care of Dr. Burke (Patricia Heaton) at a V.A. facility in Montana. Her goal is to help Colter recover from his physical and mental scars. His goal is to get through the mandatory recuperation period as quickly as possible so he may return to active duty and the only life he knows that provides purpose and meaning.
While on the surface it looks like Colter is complying with the doctor’s orders, the truth is he is lying about his residual trauma, denying he is having nightmares (flashback scenes where soldiers are shot at pointblank range) and covering his symptoms with alcohol and prescription drugs. Still, his angry outbursts contradict his avowed progress.
Meanwhile, another patient of Dr. Burke’s is also facing a setback. Thanks to years of consultations with the psychiatrist, Ike Fletcher (Brian Cox) has learned to manage his anxiety. The secret is fly fishing, a relaxing pastime that allows the Vietnam vet to lose himself in the wonders of the landscape. But all those solitary hours present a risk now that Ike is having heart problems. In a stroke of genius, Dr. Burke comes up with a treatment plan that will serve both men: Ike should teach Colter how to flyfish so he can net the benefits of the sport too, and Colter should become Ike’s companion, so the elderly man isn’t out alone in the wilds.
Of course, it takes a while before the two stubborn souls learn to work together. They get some encouragement along the way from Lucy (Perry Mattfeld), a librarian whose pretty cover hides a book full of its own tragedies.
Just as the story follows three main characters, the movie feels like it is three films merged into one. The first, which comprises the opening thirtyish minutes, aims at being a hard-hitting action flick. It drops the audience into the middle of explosions and gunfire that leave characters maimed and killed. This bloodless action is pelted with as many profanities as bullets. (The frequent use of a strong sexual expletive seems like a plot device to ensure viewers understand the intensity of the situation.) Number two begins when Ike and Colter head to the hills and streams with fishing poles. Suddenly the mood is reminiscent of nature documentaries and sportsmen shows. As we move into the final act the focus shifts to monologues from mentor figures, which feel like a self-help video.
Although the production flounders in its execution, no one can question the good intentions of the director (Joshua Caldwell) and screenwriter (Stephen Camelio). Obvious throughout its two-hour runtime, Mending the Line is about mending wounded souls. The script emphasizes mental health help as being just as important to recovery as physical therapy. (This is especially evident in a scene where a character makes a suicide attempt.) The movie acknowledges that substance abuse is a common crutch for those crippled by traumatic circumstances, yet never condones that choice. And it does its best to show how healing happens differently for each person.
Whether you’re hurt from military service or the combat of daily life, this fish tale casts a message of hope to keep fighting as you swim upstream.
Directed by Joshua Caldwell. Starring Sinqua Walls, Brian Cox, Perry Mattfeld, Patricia Heaton. Running time: 122 minutes. Theatrical release June 9, 2023. Updated June 9, 2023
Watch the trailer for Mending the Line
Mending the Line
Rating & Content Info
Why is Mending the Line rated R? Mending the Line is rated R by the MPAA for language and some violent images
Violence: Soldiers face a tense standoff with enemies where gunshots are exchanged. Explosions occur. Injuries and deaths are implied, but no blood is shown. A man with a rifle shoots men who appear unconscious and unable to protect themselves. A character tries to grab a handgun so he can shoot his enemy. (Some of these images are seen multiple times during flashback sequences.) A character, prone to angry outbursts, tosses furniture, slams doors and punches a truck. Characters are depicted missing legs and with sever scar tissue. Survivors feel guilt while talking about friends who were killed. A motor vehicle fatality is discussed. A character has a bloody gash on his head. A character tries to commit suicide by drowning. Sportsmen catch fish with hooks, then release them. Sound effects are used when a character breaks his leg. Characters deal with grief in different ways, including emotional anxiety and denial.
Sexual Content: The script includes mild sexual innuendo and references to sexual body parts. A woman’s clothing is revealing.
Profanity: A strong sexual expletive is used 19 times in the script and a sexual hand gesture is seen. The characters frequently use mild and moderate profanities, including 14 scatological curses, nine terms of deity and a smattering of minor profanities and crude expressions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Alcohol use and abuse is depicted throughout the movie. It is usually used as an escape from emotional and physical pain. Sometimes prescription drugs are taken with alcohol. A drunken character becomes violent (hits a truck with his fists) and feels despair (contemplates suicide). Characters drink at a party held in a bar. Soldiers drink during their off-duty hours. A character smokes a cigar.
Page last updated June 9, 2023
Mending the Line Parents' Guide
Why do you think that Dr. Burke believes mental health therapy is as important to healing as physical therapy? Why is it harder to ask for help with mental health issues than physical health issues?
When Colter joins a group therapy session, the other veterans discuss feeling of guilt because they survived when many of their friends did not. Why do you think they are having these feelings?
Many of the characters in this movie are dealing with grief and trauma. In what ways is their respond to their sorrows similar? In what ways are they different? Why is healing such an individual process?
In this movie, the character find solace for their grief in fly fishing. (The end credits of Mending the Line include the name of the non-profit organization Warrior and Quiet Waters, which offers Veterans a place to heal in Montana’s natural world.) What things could you do to help with your emotional trials?
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Max: War is a traumatizing event -- for both humans and animals. So the family of the soldier that worked with the canine unit in Afghanistan, adopts his dog when the animal returns to the USA.
Father Soldier Son: Brian Eisch was following a family tradition when he enlisted in the army, making him the third generation to do so. While on deployment, his two sons Isaac and Joey treat him like a hero... But when he returns from Afghanistan, all three realize that war has changed Brian, and things are going to be more complicated than they thought.