Because of my personal attachment to the material, Erin Sanger’s simple, strongly made documentary The Next Part is a hard film for me not to recommend. I’m a big supporter of honest films about United States veterans. It’s a topic that is so often infused with over-sentimentality. But, Sanger—whose narrative film, Bombshell, we recently featured—handles the subject with nuance and heart. Is The Next Part groundbreaking as a documentary? No. But, it’s calm, patient, and well-made with two excellent central characters, Aaron, a wounded soldier, and his wife Kathleen.
Perhaps most interesting, this film isn’t just about Aaron’s recovery from his injuries (though that in and of itself is heart wrenching to watch), but rather, it’s about a loving couple learning to adapt to a new way of life. This is something that is often glossed over in many documentary pieces about Wounded Warriors—usually we just see a snapshot of a smiling, recovered soldier, and then…bam…the credits roll. Cue that Lee Greenwood song…
That’s not the case here. Essentially, Kathleen becomes the film’s protagonist. She guides us through her thoughts and feelings with an authenticity that we are rarely privy too. The film’s narrative goal becomes clear—Kathleen and Aaron want to have a child. This desire—something that is relatively simple for so many couples—is rendered complicated by Aaron’s injuries. And, so, the film is given a defined narrative goal (something that so many short documentaries in this crowded online field lack). As viewers, we want and hope for Kathleen and Aaron to succeed—to move into the next part of their life—to find normalcy, happiness, and love. Again, it’s a simple hook, but very well-executed.
Sanger elaborates about what she was personally hoping to achieve with this film: “We wanted to create an authentic portrayal of the Caregiver’s experience. As Caregivers play such an integral role in the recovery process, we feel it’s key to hear their stories. We didn’t want to imbue the film with a political agenda, but rather give an honest portrayal of Kathleen and Aaron’s experiences in the aftermath of his injury. We aimed to create a film accessible to those who have been personally affected by war, and to those like myself who stand outsiders to this experience.”
Having featured two of Erin Sanger’s films in just the past few month, we obviously think she is a cinematic voice to watch. Working with her producer Chris Ferguson, Sanger is currently in development on another wounded warrior documentary.