They Who Surround Us (\N)

Troy Ruptash,
A Ukrainian farmer living in Alberta loses his wife in a tragic accident. Guilt and grief send him into an emotional spiral where mysterious and inexplicable events force him to relive traumatic incidents from his childhood in Ukrain
  • 6.0 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2019-03-21 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Director:
  • Rosanne Milliken, Producer:
1 / 10

Survivor of genocide experiences triggered PTSD

An Albertan Ukranian farmer who survived genocidal pogroms recovers from PTSD flash backs triggered by the death of his wife. He has to recover or risk being lost in an abyss of alcholism and domestic instablility.

6 / 10

Promising, with Reservations

There is commendable material in this film: Ali Liebert is a strong screen presence and effectively grounds each scene she's in, and some sequences, such as the ghost farewell scenes near the end of the film, convey an unguarded and inspiring emotionalism that's executed with surprising conviction. On the whole, I find it admirable to try and craft something this strangely ambitious in its time-jumping structuring and (in its strongest portions) go-for-broke earnestness as a debut.

However, I think writer/director/star Troy Ruptash succumbs to insecurity in presenting this vision. This is best exemplified in his performance, which feels choreographed in his held glances, deflections, and outbursts as an emulation of depictions of grief he has seen in previous media rather than a personal sensitivity on his part. This feeling comes about due to his performance alternating between two extreme registers of closed off denial and mania, which both feel unrealistic and make his progression, which is the backbone of the film's structuring, come across as feeling arbitrary rather than cathartic. This insecurity in presentation is further reflected in the film's cinematography, which jumps from car commercial gloss in the flashback and nature sequences, to arthouse textural closeups, to conventional shot reverse shot in dialogue sequences on a dime. This contributes to the feeling that the look of the film was more dependent on thinking "what would a professional movie do" on each specific sequence rather than preserving a cohesive aesthetic perspective overall. The film's worst tendencies come to a head in the war flashbacks, which succumbs to the most basic "serious war film" cliches which I also fear try to "elevate" the central emotional arc by exploiting preconception rather than through the conviction the film's best sequences convey (and brings closer to reality the terrifying notion that Passchendaele is the most influential Canadian film ever made). For Ruptash to use his sensibility to the best of its potential going forward, I would recommend dialing back his ambitions a bit and honing in on something smaller that he has direct, compulsive insight into. This will allow him to ensure each piece of his work is in tune with that guiding sensitivity, and remove the feeling of insecure emulation and disjoint that this work can suffer from. I also think this film's worst parts come from a fear that a wider audience may lose the interest to take the film seriously. If Ruptash can abandon those notions and collaborate with people with like-minded sensibilities and compulsions, a much more effective work will result.

Overall though I'm happy to see something I can write at this length about coming out of my old hometown of Vegreville, and for a debut's worst flaw to be insecurity is definitely not the worst case scenario. I hope Ruptash can find a stronger individual sensitivity in his next work as well as the courage to embrace his best tendencies.

10 / 10

Excellent Film, Rivals Ingmar Bergman

Hello Troy: Saw your film with my wife Bonnie at the Capitol last Saturday as a birthday treat. We both loved it and it reminded both of us of the best of Ingmar Bergman, as it is a great portrayal of someone undergoing PTSD. And we loved the way you make the viewer think the 'inciting incident' in the story happened in a particular way, when it fact it's totally different -- a shocker! The performances were great and the cinematography was fantastic. Congratulations!

10 / 10

A Love Song to Memory, Hope, and Courage

Though this viewer was familiar with all the locations, it was wonderful to be seeing the landscape as if for the first time. The cinematography lovingly portrayed the moment in time that was the crisis for this man and his family. It was able to hold and convey the promise and gift that the prairies of Canada represented to generations past, as well as the hope and commitment of their descendants in sustaining those visions born of struggle and pain. Images, words and songs wove together what was gone and what is yet to come in beautiful haunting melodies. The cries of a father reaching out, and yet inarticulate in his grief were very real reactions, and the unease of his family as they sought to help was poignant. In the land itself, and in the patterns of life shared as family traditions, it is possible to be held and healed.

10 / 10


This film portrays grief and trauma in a beautifully told story woven between Roman's past and present. Filmed in Alberta, the cinematography is stunning and adds to the mood of the movie. Troy's portrayal of Roman is profoundly moving and the relatable to anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one.