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FRAY (2014) *** ½

Justin (Bryan Kaplan) is a wounded veteran who comes home and tries to readjust to civilian life. Even though he has a job, he still has trouble making ends meet. He goes back to school and his understanding teacher (Maria Costa) tries to help him succeed (and even falls in love with him). He also suffers from nightmares and flashbacks and tries to get by one day at a time.

Fray isn’t a fun movie. The pace is slow and deliberate, but it helps to put you in the mind frame of the character. It wants you to experience the pain and discomfort Justin feels. In that regard, it succeeds. While I’m not sure the film will have much replay value, it’s affecting enough for a single viewing.

The film doesn’t pander to the audience or look down on its characters. It treats them with sympathy, not pity. It’s often hard to watch and there are some really depressing passages (like when Justin starts living in his car in the middle of the woods), but that is a testament to the frankness of the performances and the direction. Kaplan is excellent. He’s in nearly every scene and he really gets the audience to pull for him. You really learn to like him over the course of 90 minutes and it hurts to see him unravel before your eyes.

Fray pulls no punches. It’s sometimes tough to sit through and downright painful. It’s honest, daring, and heartfelt. It’s also one of the best movies of the year.

Fray is available now from Cinema Epoch: www.cinemaepoch.com

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