It is the constant in and out of reality that gets you.
Last Wave By (2020) is a short film by Aloysius Ong, together with STOREYS. A military captain, Thomas grappling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from a freak accident, the short film depicts his attempts to leave his 10-year-old son, Jonathan behind. But through Jonathan’s comic book, he is reminded of what it takes to be a true hero.
In classic portrayals of freak accidents, the narrative mainly focuses on the victims. Here, the flipside is illustrated; of how it is like to be on the other end of the spectrum- the “sinner”. Following the incident, Thomas wrestles with his guilt and shame. In parallel to PTSD, we catch a glimpse of these struggles as we enter his thoughts and fears. Especially with the first few minutes, it leaves you nervous, anxious and helpless. From the viewers’ perspective, it seems as if Thomas is transiting in and out of reality. In fact, even for the scenes that appear delusional, it is his version of reality where at times he is simply unable to tell what is real. His lack of ability to communicate with his superiors shows how difficult it is to live with PTSD and still function.
Fatherhood is another theme explored in this short film. Thomas’ thought process on ending his life and his eventual decision is largely influenced by the interactions shown with his son. Throughout these instances, we see how a father loves and protects his son but is also thrown back to his guilt-stricken self where he grapples with taking his own life. Despite the struggles, Jonathan brings him back, reminding him he is still his father and they are “a team”. Ultimately, he accepts the reality of his circumstance and moves forward, as he passes the baton to Jonathan and encourages him to be a “little hero”. In the same vein, the comic book comes into play as a tool for Thomas to realise that a hero is not perfect and flawless, but is one who chooses to put down his pride and make the right decision.
Aloysius shares that he portrays the film as a redemption story that deals with forgiveness and explores the relationship between a father and his son. It is the protagonist’s race against his mind to make sense of the trauma he has to reconcile, while facing his son. He uses the comic book to illustrate what it truly means to be a hero, which is to be courageous in admitting to one’s mistakes and taking responsibility for it.
In the eyes of the public, freak accidents do not always exhibit the good in the convicted. But it is in such occurrences that remind us to look at both sides of the coin and truly assess with non-prejudiced lenses. As a society, it is easy to listen to the louder voices in the media, but these are merely voices. What about the softer ones that go unheard, do they not have the right to be validated? With the exploration of PTSD, it shows how it can reach to a point of almost taking the life of a person. A fresh perspective is given such that the guilty do feel remorse and have to go through with it for the rest of their lives. Reflecting on the said themes, society can help by being more understanding and give credit to those who are brave in facing their mistakes; to still see the good in these individuals and not completely fault them. Last Wave By is a short film that takes you through the mind of a PTSD sufferer, a father, a husband and a military captain. It illustrates the multiple roles we have in our lives, and with each role, how we have various responsibilities; with every responsibility, how they carry different weight. It teaches you how to look at society without preconceived expectations and biases, but to enter into spaces with blank slates to listen and dig deeper into the plethora of stories surrounding us. The short film gives us an opportunity to view one a new light and to find the good in each other.