OK, so this is a bit more developed and I have removed any directorial comments.
Scenes of young lovers in the dark making wonderfully intense love are folded into the sudden horrific burst of an IED on a sun baked dirt road. We can’t clearly see any of the faces, but the stark contrast of colours from the dark night with muted street lamps to the bright sun is blinding and the images blur and become abstract so we can’t fully identify the faces.
We close on a cold empty house that is achingly neat. It feels starched and sad. It is evidence of a person living quietly and trying not to disturb things in their daily habits. Someone who lives a solitary and self-contained life. On the sideboard bookcase in the hall there is a letter from Lara that details to her soldier husband Rob why she has decided to leave him. It refers to a lover, who has made her realise how lonely she was with his absences and his lack of emotion, but how, even with that, she finds it difficult to leave . It says how she has not taken this decision lightly and that she is so sorry that it is going to cause him so many problems. It describes all of the good times and how she hopes they can still remain friends. We see this letter propped up near the phone while it rings and rings. Next to this letter we also see a photo of how he proposed to Lara – it is a colour photo of a garden with candles that say ‘will you marry me?’ in a heart.
Lara is a primary school teacher who has always done everything right for her parents, her husband, who she married at 22, and her friends. She was never in trouble at school, did well at university and has always worked hard as a teacher. People assume she is completely fulfilled by her job, seeing friends occasionally, keeping up with her book club and baking cakes to take in for colleagues. We next see her get into a car in an agitated state and start to passionately kiss James (her lover and a work colleague who at 27 is a year younger than Lara and has never been in a long, sustained relationship) Her mobile starts to ring loudly. She ignores it, until she can’t any longer and with a frustrated reaction she answers it. Everything becomes blurred and we see her pained reaction, although we can’t hear what it says.
We see Lara at the airport waiting to see what Rob looks like. Her face reveals her guilt, her frustration, her fear and her anticipation. Rob (a man who enjoys his job as a soldier and sees the world in black and white. He has always admired Lara and her quiet confidence, but found it frustrating that she is not more adventurous in bed. He feels that men should be masculine and women feminine in everything) is shielded by people and airport screens for a long time until Lara sees his damaged face and that he is in a wheelchair. He doesn’t need the chair long-term, but it’s the initial trauma. The IED exploded near his left side and broke his collarbone, some ribs, punctured his lung, damaged his pelvis and shrapnel landed around his eye and jaw. Rob looks dazed and closed and he sees her muted reaction, although she looks happy to see him and immediately willing to support him, her eyes reveal her turmoil and guilt. On some level he has understood this, but can’t process it.
They go through the rehabilitation process and we see Lara throwing herself in to it. She physically helps the nurses move Rob around, helps organise the house to make it work for him, discusses his progress with doctors and throughout keeps a fixed ‘smiling, but suffering wife’ expression. He doesn’t seem to have reconnected with her in any way and resents having to be treated like a child. He is friendly, but clearly frustrated with his new secondary position.
During this time and increasingly as the physical recovery has finished, Lara and the audience understand the amount of mental damage that Rob has. We see Rob struggle with nightmares, flashbacks and anger outbursts about insignificant things. Lara struggles with these as she is still feeling incredibly guilty about her betrayal, but is even more removed from Rob. He doesn’t understand how he is hurting her feelings, that he is cutting her off and often almost getting violent, but stopping himself just in time. We continually see her reaction intimately and how she is struggling to cope.
The relationship keeps deteriorating and she meets up with James one night after telling Rob she is going to a ‘wounded wives’ support group. They have an angry and sad sexual encounter in a car that is incredibly physical and she is clearly craving lustful, sensual contact. James initially wants to talk to her, but she avoids any conversation and is kissing him when he attempts to speak. She is petrified that he is going to ask her to make a decision or burden her with his problems and a desire to see her more often. During their encounter, we see her face, which shows a mixture of disgust, lust, desire and pain.
These scenes are combined with scenes of Rob watching her leave the house. Her seems to initially not mind that he is left and carries on watching television. We then move through the house with Rob and watch him select some books to read. He picks one on the hall bookcase and discovers the leaving note she had written on the day he came home. She had hurriedly tucked this into a book when she brought him back from the airport. We watch him slowly understand the contents and how both flashes of anger and enormous sympathetic pain cross his face.
After her unsatisfying tryst, we see Lara enter the seemingly empty house and in a panic look all around to find him. He is out in the garden, which is covered in candles and he has recreated the engagement picture, but with ‘I love you’ and asks her to give him time to recover and work out what the post-traumatic stress disorder has done. He doesn’t mention that he found the letter and never will. He also doesn’t mention the fact that he now knows that she has been cheating on him. This is a conversation that he is not prepared to have with her and respects her life and what she has also had to go through.
Lara realises that the husband she loves is in there somewhere and they look at each other properly in the eye for the first time since his return. She has shed the power of her guilt and silently understood that it doesn’t matter anymore and that there is a future.