‘Thank You for Your Service’ opens discussion on PTSD

After serving his third tour in Iraq, Adam Schumann came home to Kansas feeling broken and traumatized. After his time in the trenches of war, Schumann now battled internal minefields of PTSD and trauma on his own soil.

“When you come back and you’re alone and you’re isolated, and you’re sitting on the couch with your wife watching TV and you’re trying to be there watching TV but in your head, you feel like a failure because you were sent home,” Schumann said.

Writer and director Jason Hall’s “Thank You for Your Service” tells the story of Schumann and his colleagues after returning from the war. Based on journalist David Finkel’s non-fiction book with the same title, the film captures the feelings of post-war depression and PTSD and the stigmas surrounding them.

Hall, writer of 2015 Oscar-winning film “American Sniper,” often feels drawn to these types of stories due to his family’s military background. He was aware of the difficulties in creating a film that discusses such sensitive and often misrepresented subjects.

“We were aware of the fact that if you were a fraction off, it’s cliché, or it’s stereotype, or you end up misrepresenting these men and women who have a ton of honor and made a huge sacrifice,” Hall said.

“Thank You for Your Service” delves into the nuances of mental health and how often ill-equipped veterans navigate their own feelings of isolation and disappointment. The film mostly follows Adam (Miles Teller) as he tries to find a footing back in the civilian world, struggling to reconnect even with his wife (Haley Bennett) and two children.

“You left with a version of your life in your mind and you haven’t seen it since you left for a year,” Schumann said. “You don’t come home to the same woman you left; you don’t come home to the same kids.”

Schumann’s colleagues were also struggling: Solo (Beulah Koale) was left in denial of his own PTSD and drug addiction which strained his relationship with his pregnant wife. Will’s (Joe Cole) wife had already left their apartment barren by the time he came home.

When dealing with such a touchy subject, Miles Teller knew he had to prepare mentally and physically to delve into the Schumann’s mind. The actors went through an intense, five-day boot camp in order to bond as a team and to feel the brotherhood that comes with being in the military.

“There’s no black, white, religion, everyone’s green in the army,” Teller said.

Teller’s performance was subtle yet powerful. The range of emotions from trauma were clearly displayed on his face, even in scenes where he performed mundane tasks. The actor brought some of his own experiences to the table when preparing for the role.

“I had some traumatic experiences in my life that brought me close to what Adam had experienced. Trauma is universal,” Teller said. “My job was to really get in Adam’s skin and to try and tell his story as honestly as possible, and Adam represents hundreds and thousands and millions of veterans that have that experienced trauma.”

Schumann noted that the film was a therapeutic experience for him.

“It’s been a long therapy session,” Schumann said. “To see it on screen I can look back as a barometer or a measure of success to who I was then, to what I came home to, how much I went through and then where I’m at now. Any time I’m having a bad day guess what I can flip on ‘Thank you for Your Service’ and I can sit back and go, ‘Whoa, a long time ago I was pretty messed up and today’s not so bad.’”

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