OEF Army veteran Justin McLaughlin (Jesse Gavin), lives a life of solitude on his boat in Connecticut, working a menial job and avoiding his past. When his estranged brother Charlie (Joseph Poliquin), goes missing, Justin is forced from isolation and teams up with a private investigator named Frankie to track him down. Together, they discover Charlie’s been recruited by an extremist militia planning an unknown attack. Justin must decide how much of his Army past he’s willing to expose to extract Charlie from the clutches of their paramilitary leader, Billy, while reconciling his own sense of purpose and regaining his brother’s trust. Set during the Covid-19 pandemic, NORTHERN SHADE focuses on purpose and redemption in an age of heightened anxiety and isolation.
What We Thought:
I like the story in Northern Shade, unfortunately the film already feels dated only being a few years old. I’m a big supporter of veterans and seeing veteran stories is great and the movie’s cast and crew consisted of 35% veterans. Kudos to all involved for that.
The story is about a veteran still suffering years after leaving the service. He lost a good friend overseas and drinks to ease that pain. When he gets news that his younger brother is missing, he looks into what is going on. There is a private investigator also involved and he soon realizes his brother is caught up with a militia that he thinks is up to no good.
Showing the suffering and PTSD is great. Not every soldier has the same response coming home and dealing with being home so showing any side is worthy. You see the lead’s pain. You see how he’s removed himself from others and not being connected to his mother and brother. The PI also is a veteran and she turned to law enforcement and then the private sector which shows how she dealt with coming home. I appreciate seeing multiple sides. Even in the militia you have men with military pasts. Of course you have the fake wannabes with stolen valor that you see a lot of today.
My biggest issue with the film, and it’s just my opinion, is that it already feels dated. It’s set during the COVID-19 pandemic so characters are wearing masks, talking about COVID and dealing with distance. There’s also Black Lives Matter graffiti on a wall early on which puts the film in one time period. Yes we aren’t 100% beyond COVID, but seeing characters wearing masks dates the film immediately. The story of the veteran struggling and hoping to help his brother is pretty universal, but seeing the masks on characters pinpoints it to a year or two in time.
But I do hope people watch Northern Shade for the story. We need to see more veteran stories both good and bad. Drinking alone on a boat is one side. Turning to law enforcement and investigation is another. Joining a militia to be part of something is another. I can appreciate showing multiple sides. For that reason I have to recommend the film.