With a film that’s titled PTSD, there is not much twist to be expected when it comes to the subject matter. Remaining faithful to its name, the film deals with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that Cody, one of the central characters, goes through because of being involved in an event so violent that his own mind and body refuse to acknowledge it.
PTSD by Million Youth Media opens with a bunch of young Black kids minding their own business, happy in their own world. The interesting thing about the opening sequence is we get a shot of almost all the important places and things that the film is going to revolve around. Of course, in the beginning, they appear as one aesthetic shot after the other, but as the film gradually unfolds, this opening sequence proves its worth quite meaningfully.
A few minutes into the film, we arrive at the place where the main event happened. It’s a local shop where the kids have come to buy something. We get introduced to Cody here for the first time, talking to Faisal, another one of the central characters. There’s another Black guy with Cody, and Faisal seems to be in good rapport with both of them. They indulge in some banter before Faisal goes inside the shop, and that’s when the thing happens.
We see a masked man hit Faisal and run away. Faisal runs after him while Cody and the other Black guy also follow them. It becomes apparent after a while that Faisal has actually been stabbed and is bleeding out. How things go after that makes the crux of the story. While this chaos is happening, it seems a bit weird to see Cody standing at a distance with his other Black friend and not really doing anything to help the situation. Just as the audience starts thinking about what might possibly be wrong, the scene cuts, and it’s shown that the whole thing is happening in Cody’s dream or, rather, in his nightmare.
Right from this moment, the story gets kind of predictable. It is quite easy to guess what might have happened that keeps sending Cody down the spiral. However, the whys and hows of the whole thing still remain worthy of interest and should keep the audience hooked.
The usage of Faisal’s character while showing the flashbacks is an age-old trope in movies dealing with trauma, and the film has used this trope justifiably. He walks Cody through his past and the labyrinth of his own memory until the truth surfaces because Cody cannot take it anymore.
Though the idea of the film is not quite original or groundbreaking, the incidents it portrays add some value to it. The tension between the two Black gangs might appear a bit of a stereotypical portrayal of Black rivalry, but for the film, the idea works. Cody, as this trouble-magnet White guy, does his part well, and his over-the-top bits make his PTSD appear real and believable. The actors have all done an excellent job in telling this story that cannot be called very solid at its foundation. The constant shift between the past and the present might appear a bit confusing if you are not paying enough attention. Cody’s breakdowns at some points seem too dramatic, but then again, this is a serious mental health condition we are talking about, and that makes it justified.
Cody’s past is only mentioned in bits and pieces, and we never get an insight into why he has turned out to be the guy he is. Letting the audience a little more into his past would have worked in favor of Cody’s character as the viewers would have understood him better. We get an insight into his first introduction to Faisal and his friends and how it was him through whom Faisal had met the other Black guy.
Cody’s actions often appear impulsive and without much justification, but due to the lack of focus on his past, we just believe that this is what he is as a person. The characters of Faisal, his family, and his friends also often appear stereotypical and lead to generic portrayals of Black people without any fascinating or individualistic features added to them. However, despite its flaws and somewhat fragmentary storytelling, PTSD focuses on important themes, and it does so with honesty and earnestness.