America. Home of the Brave. The Land of the Free. That is unless you are a U.S. Veteran on disability afflicted from the mental and physical anguish acquired while protecting the country you love. Yet, the V.A. couldn’t be bothered to pay Lance Corporal Brian Brown-Easley $892 dollars due to an error on their behalf.
Directed by Abi Damaris Corbin and screenplay from Kwame Kwei-Armah, Breaking is based on Aaron Gell’s 2018 article from the military news site Task & Purpose and long-form journalism hub Longreads. $892 dollars may seem like a small amount, but it can literally be the difference between your dignity and being dismissed, which is precisely what transpired with Easley when he attempted to rob a Wells Fargo to recover his funds.
John Boyega, Rosa Diaz and Nicole Beharie are equally fantabulous bringing this story to the cinematic forefront. As Brian, Boyega eloquently conveys a man clearly on the edge who wants nothing more than to do right by his wife and daughter. The layered, complexity he brings to a man whose Christian faith allowed him to have compassion even for those he traumatized was tricky, but John Boyega delivers it all in one fell swoop with grace, dignity and spitfire fervor. Nicole Beharie and Rosa Diaz are female unsung cinematic lions whose performances will raise the hair on your neck along with Boyega and the late Michael K. Williams. It breaks my heart that he won’t be able to bathe in the accolades his performance will brings in this project.
What resonates strongly for me is the blatant disrespect and dismissive attitude given toward people of color in authority and in distress . When Brian yells out “I want the fire trucks. I want the police. I want the X-Men…call them!!! I wanna see CNN, Don Lemon, Daytime. I wanna see them all, just tell him what’s happening to me…just tell ‘em.” This is a man at the end of his rope and no longer cares how he is perceived. Or the moment, the negotiator (Michael K. Williams) is called in to deescalate the situation only to not be undermined by his own boys in blue. Or the disrespect of the FBI, when they abruptly with no explanation physically dismiss themselves from the wife and daughter of the trouble vet.
As the daughter of a Marine, I’m appalled and beyond annoyed at how these soldiers are treated upon return to America. They are dealt a dirty deck with no failsafe and it is unwarranted and beyond irreverent. Breaking left a huge knot in the pit of my stomach and angered me beyond belief, which for me is the earmark of a story fantastically and respectfully told. Here’s hoping we don’t ever have to see or hear these types of stories in the future. Our servicemen and women deserve better.
Distributed by Bleecker Street Productions, Breaking hits theaters on August 26.