Sunday, October 26, 2014

Terrible Love the Movie for Veterans with PTSD

Behind Terrible Love Story Real Families
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
October 26, 2014

Life for veterans and families with PTSD can be terrible at times. So much so that it makes all the talk show tales of troubled marriages look easy. Speaking as a wife of a veteran with PTSD for 30 years, the movie Terrible Love comes as close as a civilian can get to seeing what our lives are like. Beyond the headlines there is real heartache.

Our lives are harder than most will ever know. Christopher Thomas wanted to tell our stories condensed in the story of a National Guardsman and his loving wife as their world fell apart. Our lives are complicated by the emotional rollercoaster corrupts even the strongest bond and while we fight to help our husbands/wives heal, we battle our own inner conflicts of wanting to stay and fight for the sake of those we love or walk away for our own futures. Can we do it? Can we fight hard enough and long enough to make it all work? Can we go on never knowing one moment to the next that will happen to us or because of us if we react wrongly?

The movie was intended to let families know we are not alone and what we are going through is our normal even though it is all abnormal to the rest of country.

We have to decide to keep fighting the VA for what they need and fighting to hang onto hope that it can get better or give up on all of it.

During the filming and editing Christopher struggled with getting the story right. He wanted to go beyond showing us we are not alone into reaching citizens trying to understand us when all they get are news reports on stories when it has been too late to do much good for anyone.

We were the audience he dedicated three years of his life to without being one of us. We were the people he spent countless hours and sleepless nights trying to get it right for and he achieved it. I've been reading reviews on Terrible Love but this one made me cringe
"The big problem with this type of story right from the outset is that no matter what tricks a director employs, we will never know what it is like to go through something like that unless we actually do."
(You can read more of this review below)

He learned what it was like because we spent countless hours on the phone and email Q and A for three years. He watched the videos I made, read the stories on Wounded Times and asked me about what he did not understand. He wanted to know about us as well as all the families I worked with over the years trying to get them to a point in their lives when loving them didn't feel so terrible.
After reading the review, this is the comment I had to leave.
Wounded Times Blog
I was the consultant on the PTSD part of this film. After 3 years of Christopher's heart invested in this project along with everyone else, I have mixed feelings about this review. I take your point on the music and the rest of the comments as truthful however it would have been more honest to also add in that this was his first movie and he did it out of love, not for his own glory.

Three years ago he called and wanted to learn about PTSD, what far too many were going through, because he wanted to do something to help. He wanted to tell a real story of what life was like but didn't have connections to make it happen. He did what he could with very little support, so what he managed to do with Terrible Love showed not only his talent, but his commitment to our veterans and families.

Christopher told a story of what life is like for many veterans and for the families they come home to. Lost and confused, wanting to help but not knowing what to do. Our lives are very hard but few others dared tell what it is like.

Did he hit all the Hollywood grades? No but the veterans community is grateful he did what really matters, He made Combat PTSD real for everyone to understand and be touched by it.

'Terrible Love' (2014) Movie Review
While it features some powerful moments, the film is too overwrought to fully resonate.
Rope of Silicon
Mike Shutt
FRIDAY, OCT 24, 2014

Movies about soldiers coming home from war and trying to acclimate back into regular society can be very tricky. They are often too sentimental, too alienating, or too histrionic. It is difficult to make a situation like that exist outside of cliché and feel honest. Directors try so many different things to visualize PTSD, from flashes of the soldier's moment of trauma to screaming fits to being unable to do a certain task. The big problem with this type of story right from the outset is that no matter what tricks a director employs, we will never know what it is like to go through something like that unless we actually do. Soldiers who suffer from PTSD are changed people in every way, and we can only observe how the react. Terrible Love, the debut feature of director Christopher Thomas, tries to have a natural take on the situation, complete with totally improvised dialogue, but in postproduction, the emotional manipulation gets turned up far too high for the drama to breathe and sink into its audience.

Amy Urbina and Rufus Burns play, well, Amy and Rufus (all the characters have the actors' names), a married couple reuniting after Rufus's year-long deployment in the Middle East. He is returning home two weeks early after his humvee hit a land mine, causing him to completely lose eyesight in his left eye. Initially, their reunion is joyous, filled with a lot of montage kissing, but after a few days, things for Rufus start to go very sour. He gets night terrors, gets very distant from his wife, has small triggers that lead to big episodes, and struggles with taking care of himself and their daughter Aubrey (Aubrey Davis-Williams). Amy tries to accommodate, but day after day, the strain between them becomes greater and greater.
read more here

The end of the movie does not have to be the end of their story. It isn't the end for any of us as long as we get the help we need to stay and fight for them side by side. Because people like Christopher Thomas are out there, we're a lot closer to changing the conversation from headlines to our reality.
UPDATE Review Austin Film Festival
"Terrible Love" and PTSD and what happens when we are closed versus what happens when we are open
Film Colossus
by Chris Lambert

So Terrible Love's Rufus is one of the most tragic characters I've seen in a film. Why?

Because he is incapable of expressing his pain.

Which is what makes Terrible Love so fascinating to me.

The premise of Terrible Love is that Rufus (Rufus Burns) is an American soldier who leaves, shortly after his wedding to Amy (Amy Urbina), for a tour in Iraq. Eventually, Rufus is injured and discharged. PTSD will happen.

I'm sure much of the talk about this movie will revolve around its portrayal of PTSD, how accurate it is or is not. The film functions, in a way, as a critique of the poor support system for many veterans. Also for the spouses of those veterans. For example: there's a scene where Amy tells her friend, another military wife, that she's scared of Rufus. And the friend tells Amy that Amy is being dramatic and selfish. Yeesh.

I think the movie takes on a larger subject than PTSD. A simple, universal truth that is the film's real power. Openness versus Closedness. Specifically, how easy it is to be open about positive emotions and experiences, and how difficult it is to express negative emotions.

The first 20 minutes of the movie captures this in such a beautiful way that it made me cry.

The film opens with Rufus and Amy reciting their wedding vows. Plenty of friends and family are there. The bride and groom express, out loud, for everyone, how much they love one another, how much they need one another, etc. etc. This positive spirit lingers, even when Rufus heads to Iraq. His time there and Amy's time at home is captured in summary. The time they are apart takes less than 5 minutes in the film. We see them going about their lives (domestic things contrasted by graphic imagery from the Middle East), knowing they miss one another, knowing they care about one another—their wedding vows still fresh in our minds. We don't see Rufus in pain. We don't see Amy in pain. Even when Rufus's car rolls over a land mine and he's hurt: we don't see him screaming, crying or anything. In fact, we get a phone call from Rufus saying everything is okay and then cut to him coming home, to the happy reunion between him and Amy in the airport.

We follow the reunion with 8 minutes of wonderful domestic life. Amy and Rufus are both happy. We see laughter, affection, joy. Until the 16 minute mark when Rufus has his first on-camera instance of PTSD. As he hunches and cries and yells and hyperventilates, Amy asks: "Are you okay? What's going on? What is happening? Are you in pain? What's wrong? Are you okay?"

Rufus tells her nothing.
read more here


  1. Hi Katie. Chris Lambert, from Film Colossus. Thanks for your contribution to the film. It was cool to read your insight into the film.

  2. Thank you Chris. I don't like to talk about what I did on this movie but felt it was very important to show how hard Christopher studied and put his heart into this. For three years I witnessed him changing as he learned more. This is one of the hardest topics to get into because these veterans get into your soul. He came about as close as anyone ever could without having it or being a family member.


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