Combustible Celluloid Review - Mending the Line (2023), Stephen Camelio, Joshua Caldwell, Brian Cox, Sinqua Walls, Perry Mattfeld, Patricia Heaton, Wes Studi, Chris Galust
Combustible Celluloid
With: Brian Cox, Sinqua Walls, Perry Mattfeld, Patricia Heaton, Wes Studi, Chris Galust
Written by: Stephen Camelio
Directed by: Joshua Caldwell
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent images
Running Time: 122
Date: 06/09/2023

Mending the Line (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Fish Fulfillment

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Formulaic and slow to be sure, the mentor-student drama Mending the Line is rarely dull, thanks to the fine performances and the languid pacing that allows us to find the meditative rhythms of fly-fishing itself.

U.S. Marine John Colter (Sinqua Walls) and his men are on the last day of their tour in Afghanistan, when they are sent out on a final patrol. They are ambushed, and slaughtered. An injured and scarred Colter winds up in a VA hospital in Montana, enraged, and impatient to return to active duty.

Meanwhile, ex-Marine Ike Fletcher (Brian Cox), who spends his days fly-fishing, has been suffering blackouts. Their doctor (Patricia Heaton) comes up with a solution: John can accompany Ike and be there to help if any blackouts occur, and Ike can teach John fly-fishing, which could help his PTSD. But sparks fly when the grumpy Ike and John meet for the first time. And things grow more complicated when John meets the grieving librarian Lucy (Perry Mattfeld).

"More great literature has been written about fly-fishing than any other sport," says Ike at one point, and watching Mending the Line, we're apt to believe him. The movie's fishing scenes are full of myth and metaphor, philosophy and psychology, and a general sense of centeredness and well-being. There's also gratitude: when Ike first catches a fish, he cradles it tenderly, lets it go, and whispers, "thank you."

The mentor-student stuff is pretty routine, including Ike's hard-as-nails approach (he makes John clean the stockroom before even letting him handle a fishing rod). There are also the usual weepy hospital scenes, a somewhat turgid music score, and a largely unsuccessful romantic subplot, but the actors, including the great Wes Studi as Ike's best friend (and the only one who can put up with Ike's orneriness), are fully game. They embrace the tragedy and beauty of their characters, and they manage to sell moments that might have otherwise fallen flat in lesser hands.

Ultimately, Mending the Line teaches us a little about fly-fishing, but a lot more about being human.

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