A hostile takedown in Afghanistan leaves John Colter (Sinqua Walls) wounded and his buddies dead. Sent home to the United States, the ex-marine is placed in the care of Dr. Burke (Patricia Heaton) at a V.A. facility in Montana. Her goal is to help Colter recover from his physical and mental scars. His goal is to get through the mandatory recuperation period as quickly as possible so he may return to active duty and the only life he knows that provides purpose and meaning.

While on the surface it looks like Colter is complying with the doctor’s orders, the truth is he is lying about his residual trauma, denying he is having nightmares (flashback scenes where soldiers are shot at pointblank range) and covering his symptoms with alcohol and prescription drugs. Still, his angry outbursts contradict his avowed progress.

Meanwhile, another patient of Dr. Burke’s is also facing a setback. Thanks to years of consultations with the psychiatrist, Ike Fletcher (Brian Cox) has learned to manage his anxiety. The secret is fly fishing, a relaxing pastime that allows the Vietnam vet to lose himself in the wonders of the landscape. But all those solitary hours present a risk now that Ike is having heart problems. In a stroke of genius, Dr. Burke comes up with a treatment plan that will serve both men: Ike should teach Colter how to flyfish so he can net the benefits of the sport too, and Colter should become Ike’s companion, so the elderly man isn’t out alone in the wilds.

Of course, it takes a while before the two stubborn souls learn to work together. They get some encouragement along the way from Lucy (Perry Mattfeld), a librarian whose pretty cover hides a book full of its own tragedies.

Just as the story follows three main characters, the movie feels like it is three films merged into one. The first, which comprises the opening thirtyish minutes, aims at being a hard-hitting action flick. It drops the audience into the middle of explosions and gunfire that leave characters maimed and killed. This bloodless action is pelted with as many profanities as bullets. (The frequent use of a strong sexual expletive seems like a plot device to ensure viewers understand the intensity of the situation.) Number two begins when Ike and Colter head to the hills and streams with fishing poles. Suddenly the mood is reminiscent of nature documentaries and sportsmen shows. As we move into the final act the focus shifts to monologues from mentor figures, which feel like a self-help video.

Although the production flounders in its execution, no one can question the good intentions of the director (Joshua Caldwell) and screenwriter (Stephen Camelio). Obvious throughout its two-hour runtime, Mending the Line is about mending wounded souls. The script emphasizes mental health help as being just as important to recovery as physical therapy. (This is especially evident in a scene where a character makes a suicide attempt.) The movie acknowledges that substance abuse is a common crutch for those crippled by traumatic circumstances, yet never condones that choice. And it does its best to show how healing happens differently for each person.

Whether you’re hurt from military service or the combat of daily life, this fish tale casts a message of hope to keep fighting as you swim upstream.

Check out the full review here